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Particularly Fond

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Ronald Weasley is twenty-seven years old and just finishing up his Fettuccine Alfredo when the door to his shared apartment slams open with a deafening ruckus followed by muttered curse words of his blonde roommate.

Cassiopeia doesn’t have bad days often, but when she does she would usually badger him into helping her dye her hair – “muggle-style” as she calls it – and they would drink an obscene amount of butter beer for two full-grown wizards their age while watching crap television shows.

She doesn’t speak as they sit on the counter and eat their dinner – only smiles gratefully when Ron sprinkles some more parsley on her plate – and she takes off her suit jacket and white dress shirt as she puts their plates by the sink. She is wearing the pink lace bra she has gotten on their last shopping trip together, and as she waggles out of her pencil skirt on the way to the bathroom Ron can tell she isn’t wearing matching panties – a clear indication of how disastrously her day has started out, as she swears by matching underwear.

He helps her put the hair dye in and it isn’t until half an hour later when he’s rinsing it out again that she says: “I found us a new place. A doctor slash healer at the hospital I was translating at today, he lives in a four-bedroom apartment and two of his roommates just moved out.”

It’s stupid because between Quidditch practice and helping out George at the shop and meeting his family he hasn’t even given their upcoming ending lease a single thought. He’s been living with Cassiopeia for almost six years now and he never considered not living with her – they are both still single, and she has grown to be as close a friend to him as Harry and Hermione are. Even when she had gotten serious with a girlfriend a couple of years back, she had never voiced an intention to move out, and so they had stuck together. It wasn’t that he had wanted to discontinue their flat sharing, it was simply that he had forgotten all about the issue.

He doesn’t mind the idea of sharing a bigger place with more people if Cassiopeia is one of them; anything is better than having to move back home.

The next day when Cassiopeia comes home from a translating job at a muggle event, he has already packed all his stuff into enchanted boxes and he’s ready to say their dingy London apartment goodbye.

The new place is in Notting Hill and they’re both kind of giggling with excitement at the thought of it. They had moved into their small place just after Cassiopeia had graduated from a muggle university and Ron had moved out of his brother’s place and quit his full-time job at the shop in exchange for a dabble in the Keeper career.

Over the years their measly salaries had grown but they had gotten used to the small flat and the noisy neighbours and the comfort of living amongst muggles and being close to the good clubs whilst being close to Diagon Alley nonetheless. Ron is pretty sure Cassiopeia too, has never considered them necessary for a move, until the landlord had announced he was selling the building to a company that intended on turning the flats into offices.

They choose an apparition spot near the building and head over with all their things packed into individual suitcases – Harry has promised to join later to help them levitate the heavier items out from their magically-enlarged confinements, and Ron is looking forward to celebrating their move with some nice dinner cooked in their new kitchen later that evening.

There’s a note on the door to the apartment and Cassiopeia finds the key underneath the potted plant – it has tiny pink flowers growing from it and Ron loves this place already – before they enter. The note is short and explains how both of their new roommates will be home later in the evening, and there’s an “xoxo” written at the bottom and a red lip print that makes Cassiopeia blush. She is a sucker for a girl that wears blood red lipstick, Ron knows, as she is so diligent with her own.

The apartment opens up into a spacious new kitchen made from dark pinewood and black marble – there are two ovens and a beautiful kitchen island and a breakfast bar with modern stools. Above the fire and sink is what looks like homemade shelves, holding succulents and an improvised spice rack, rows and rows of pots, below them, fresh herbs hanging from some string. The far wall is made from black board, and besides the names of the herbs and spices were some random scribbles written in a curvaceous font.

Cassiopeia allows him to drool over the kitchen as she goes to claim her new bedroom. He is busy obsessing over how beautifully the pans are mounted next to the fridge when he hears her squeal in delight and then she’s making a fuss of how absolutely gorgeous the bathroom is and apparently they have a lion-feet tub and then she is just making incoherent sounds to express her delight.

They spend the rest of the afternoon unpacking their things and Harry comes and goes again and Ron is going through the motions, levitating his bed and his chess board and his clothes into his new closet but in his head he’s thinking of those spices and a lamb dish he has wanted to try out for ages.

He knows it will take a while for this bedroom to feel like home, but he has travelled enough to know that a bed will suffice for now, and personal touches will come later. So instead of dwelling on it, he puts a framed family picture from when he was eleven on the wooden window sill, and he puts another picture of Harry, Hermione and himself next to it, the third a framed photo of Cassiopeia and himself, getting drunk on flaming shots. His photographed family members are all curiously looking about, Hermione nodding approvingly at the couple of books he has already unpacked, but the small Cassiopeia and Ron from the third pictured seem not to notice their new location – or care for that matter – and simply continue downing their shots.

For a moment he feels sentimental, as he watches Fred and George goof around in their frame, but then his mind is drawn back to the rack of lamb he has stored safely in the fridge, and just like that he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

Cassiopeia turns on the stereo in her room and flitters around the kitchen on route to their new shared living room and she gushes loudly about the size of their new television and then joins him and watches him work.

Ten years ago he never would have imagined living in an apartment that looks like a muggle could live there – but after housing with Cassiopeia for so long he had gotten used to all the electronics, the muggle bars, the social media and mostly, using his hands for cooking.

Since her magical parents had abandoned her, she had been raised by a muggle family in Japan – and even when she had attended Mahōtokoro she had always gone back to her home with a sense of relief that the simplicity of a muggle life offered. When she had moved to London to attend university she met children in her situation for the first time – seeing how magical children from none-magical parents were extremely rare in Japan – and she slowly learned to embrace her magical side together with her none-magical upbringing, and thus as she and Ron moved in together it had been with some apprehension of all the muggle appliances and Cassiopeia’s insistence that he got a mobile. However, Ron now feels he quite likes this kind of mixed life – there is something ridiculously satisfying to doing something using just his own two hands.

It is also beyond amusing to watch Cassiopeia kick Harry’s ass at videogames.

Ron is just finishing up on his cilantro chimichurri and about to pull out the lamb rack when they hear chatter out on the hallway, and the front door opens.

“—if you just stop being such a bi—“ the voice stills and when Ron looks up he thinks his heart stops beating.

Draco Malfoy is wearing a grey three-piece suit, with a red cravat that pops out of the ensemble and a golden jewel atop it, a Bordeaux petticoat that accentuates his ever-slender form. His hair is not slicked back, like he used to wear it in their school days, but it’s loose and wavy and shorter on the sides and despite the stern look on his face he looks gorgeous, high cheek bones shimmering in the light. His eyes are calculating, grey skies storming.

“Doctor Malfoy!” Cassiopeia is smiling brightly and Draco fixes her with a stare and just like that Ron can breathe again – as if he had been lost in the pools of Draco’s eyes and now he had found himself again.

“Miss Kiyomizu, mister Weasley,” the blond nods his acknowledgement as he strips himself of his outer jacket – Cassiopeia looks between the two of them curiously, and recognition reaches her face.

“Have you two met before?” she asks nosily, eyes flitting to Ron, then to Draco and back again.

“We went to Hogwarts together,” Draco explains simply, hanging his coat neatly on the hanger by the door.

Before Cassiopeia can insist on a further explanation, Pansy Parkinson waltzes in and then stops abruptly looking as freaked out as Ron feels on the inside.

“Wait, what?” her eyes turn to slits as she gauges Draco’s expression, seemingly convinced that some kind of bad joke is going on, “why is Ron Weasley in our kitchen?”

She hasn’t changed much since school; she is still tall and her hair is still shockingly black, cut so that her bangs reach her collar bones at the front, but cut shorter at the back. She is donning the same shade of red that the lip imprint on the note had been and she is wearing stilettos and black stockings, her dress hidden underneath her stylishly cut black coat.

“Mister Weasley is our new roommate,” Malfoy explains – he gives Pansy a look, and she seems to realise that there is no joke, good or bad.

It feels kind of like an out-of-body experience for Ron, because he has been staring at Draco for what feels like ages already, and nothing catastrophic has happened yet. Actually quite the opposite, because Draco is being impossibly polite and he looks good.

Parkinson stares at her friend for a moment and then says resolutely, “we’re drinking the good wine tonight.”

On her way over to her own bedroom she lets her eyes wander over to where Cassiopeia is sitting – all leggings and lose sweater and messy hair from where she had been dancing around before – and Ron swears she mutters, “at least he brought eye candy,” before disappearing.

From the way Cassiopeia is blushing a bright pink, he guesses she heard it too.

“Please forgive her,” Draco offers as a manner of apology, undoing the button of his suit jacket before joining Cassiopeia at the breakfast bar, “she’s not always this impolite.”

Ron wants to say something mean and snarky, but then he doesn’t. When Cassiopeia asks the blond whether they had been friends at Hogwarts, Draco merely says, “it was a long time ago. We are no longer children,” and to be honest it kind of makes Ron’s head spins because he knows he isn’t a child anymore but for some reason seeing Draco Malfoy up close after such a long time brings out some childish urges.

Of course he sees Draco at family gatherings occasionally – when Teddy Lupin is involved, at least – and sometimes he sees Draco when the boy picks up his nephew from a night at Harry’s. These occasions are rare and far apart and he hasn’t been up and close with him since Hogwarts – which in itself is quite a shocking realisation. He hasn’t given Draco Malfoy any thought in years – and now that the boy is sitting across from him, lips pink and loosening his cravat with pale fingers, Ron thinks that maybe not giving him any thought had been a grave mistake on his part.

“Harry helped us move our stuff,” he answers when Draco asks about how the move had gone; there is a twitch in the corner of his mouth, and only a slight raise of his eyebrow that signifies his mild annoyance.

Pansy’s head pops out from her room and around her doorframe, eyes wide, “Harry Potter was in our apartment? That’s it, Draco, we’re using your grandfather’s crystal.”

“Of course we are,” a smile tugs at his lips as he gets up and opens one of the cabinets.

Meanwhile, Ron removes the lamb from the oven and Pansy comes back from her room with two bottles in her hands, holding them up in triumph, “I got a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sassicaia!” she grins and takes the corkscrew from one of the drawers, “Draco enjoys breaking his grandfather’s crystal. I’m surprised we even have any left.”

“Hmm,” the blond hums as he sets four glasses on the breakfast bar – they look heavy and have an intricate pattern and bear the Malfoy family crest, “it seems we still have one too many.”

Pansy pours the wine with a chortle – after offering Cassiopeia and Ron one, she fills both her own and Draco’s all the way to the brim.

“Will you join us for dinner?” Cassiopeia goes to get plates as Ron cuts into the meat, leaving his glass of wine where it was for the moment so that he can appreciate the pink tint of the flesh, cooked to perfection.

“We’ve already eaten,” Draco watches as Ron carves with precision, and Pansy lets out a whistle after her first gulp of wine, “it smells delicious Weasley! Who knew you could cook!”

“Oh Ron is a fantastic cook,” Cassiopeia beams, “and this wine will go great with the lamb!”

Ron watches Draco from the corner of his eye just because this whole situation feels so foreign to him. The blond appears completely undisturbed however, as he raises his glass to take in the aroma of the wine first, before taking a delicate sip. When it meets his approval he takes a bigger sip, and next to him Pansy is already topping off her own glass again, not quite the picture of elegance she would often present back at school.

She finally removes her jacket to reveal a tight black dress with an open back and when she hangs her coat next to Draco’s they exchange a look and Ron doesn’t understand.

They all watch Ron work in an easy silence – Ron is reminded of his Hogwarts years and having his potions scrutinised as he adds the ingredients, except that now there is an air of confidence about him, and he enjoys the attention he receives as he plates their food gently.

There’s a knock to the door and Pansy frowns in Draco’s direction, “are you seeing a patient tonight?”

“I hadn’t planned to,” Draco merely says, and Ron casts him a look out of curiosity as the blond gets up to open the door.

Cassiopeia has explained the concept of a doctor to Ronald, but he hadn’t known they would sometimes have their patients visit their homes – that was definitely something a healer would never allow.

As it turns out, there is no sick muggle waiting by the door, but instead a young black boy, hair cut short and although looking younger than Ron feels, he also looks decisively stronger, broad shoulders in his black pullover, a golden piercing flickering in his nose as his face is revealed to the light from the apartment.

Pansy and Cassiopeia are very unsubtly looking over at the two men, but to Ron’s surprise Draco does not ask him in – even as the black boy goes in for a kiss, Draco dodges it quite brutally, his knuckles tightening around the door handle as he hisses: “what are you doing here?”

“I wanted to surprise you,” which sounds reasonable enough, but from Draco’s snarl Ron figures the boy doesn’t like surprises all that much, “I tried calling ahead, but you didn’t pick up your phone.”

It sounds accusatory and Pansy glares daggers at the boy by the door, suddenly no longer interested in what he has to say.

“Which should have been an indicator to how busy I am,” Draco is adamant, his fine figure blocking the entrance – even if probably, in all honesty, the other boy could push him out of the way with a single finger, “we don’t do this.”

“What don’t we do?” the other boy’s eyes widen in confusion, Draco making a show out of tapping his dress shoes in an impatient rhythm.

“Sleepovers at my place,” Draco taunts, “we discussed this. I don’t want you here.”

“I drove all this way!” the black boy protests vehemently, his golden piercing shaking in his nose, “I’ve had a long day Drake, come on.”

“You cannot demand sex after you’ve so ruthlessly trodden on all of our agreements,” and just like that he sounds thirteen again, voice venom, “our liaison does not give you the right to invade my privacy.”

“Invading privacy is what boyfriends do!” the other boy objects and Pansy’s red nails dig into the crystal, Draco’s foot stopping its tapping abruptly.

“We’re not dating, we’re fucking,” and it sounds kind of strange to hear such a crude word from Draco Malfoy, dressed in a three piece suit and wearing jewellery that probably costs more than Ron’s parental house, “if you can’t fuck me when and where I request you to there is really no use to continuing our agreement.”

“Are you breaking up with me?” something flickers across the boy’s face, his hands dropping besides his body, suddenly slack.

“We weren’t in a relationship,” Draco says simply, voice back to perfectly composed, “the next time you court someone, perhaps you should consider the fact that loving someone does not give you privilege to overstep their boundaries merely to serve your own pleasure. May I suggest a pet? I heard dogs are very pliant.”

With that he closes the door – not slamming it, as Ron would have expected him to – and turns on his heel. He sits back down next to Pansy and holds his glass out for her to refill it, and Cassiopeia hums a discontent, “men,” before she continues her dinner and just like that the moment is gone and it’s as if nothing disconcerting took place.

Chapter Text


 

 

It’s supposed to be weird, Ron thinks. Over the next week he makes himself at home – in the morning he drinks coffee Draco has already prepared, and he has breakfast with Pansy and or Cassiopeia depending on their schedules. Most of the evenings Draco is back ridiculously late, but he eats the leftovers Ron leaves for him, as he is almost always home first. He watches Pansy and Cassiopeia play videogames or discuss their Instagram and Magnow and sometimes Cassiopeia talks about art with Draco while Ron watches television with Pansy.

They drink a lot of wine and Cassiopeia accidentally drops one of Draco’s grandfather’s ridiculously expensive glasses to loud applause from the two Slytherins and they end the night with shots of what Ron hopes is firewhiskey but he honest to Merlin has no idea, and the next morning they are all up obscenely early and Draco makes them hangover potions.

They don’t fight. But then Ron doesn’t really know enough about present-day Draco to fight with him on anything, really.

It still feels as if he is being too safe though – there is a hesitance in everything he does and every time Pansy addresses him he is just waiting for that cutting tongue to lash out but it never does. He half expects Draco to come into his room in the middle of the night and hex all of his underwear into a ridiculously purple colour but nothing happens. They are adults, is what Draco had said, wasn’t it?

He talks to Hermione about the situation just because Harry would probably just laugh long and hard and awkwardly until he stopped laughing and then would just shrug and tell Ron to “deal with it” as he usually did when it came to Ron’s living arrangements, still a little sour that Ron had never picked him as a roommate when he had the chance.

Hermione just kind of shrugs at first, as they eat sandwiches in her office, and then talks about how Draco studied to become a healer and then went through a muggle university with an amazing speed to become a muggle doctor and then dappled in something called “psychology” that Ron didn’t really understand but nodded to anyway. She shrugs again and says, “he works at Saint Mungo’s too you know, consults when they need him to. He has a knack for it. But then he always was the second brightest wizard in our year,” she says it with a cheeky grin and Ron throws an olive at her face and she crinkles her noise and they change the subject.

He meets Cassiopeia for ice cream in their new neighbourhood after Quidditch practice finishes early one day, and she asks him about it.

“You haven’t really been yourself lately,” is what she actually says, offering him a taste of her candy corn ice cream, “just this really timid restrained version of yourself.”

“It’s just weird living with the Slytherin Prince and Princess all of a sudden,” he can’t stop the disdain seeping into his voice and it’s probably the first time he’s said it out loud and he kind of hates himself for doing it too – because their proclivities are all wrong for their titles, and so is the way Draco washes the dishes by hand and Pansy kicks off her high heels and forgoes etiquette when she pours their wine.

Cassiopeia twirls her pink-blonde hair in her free hand, thinking.

“Did you know Pansy enjoys fishing?” she remarks suddenly – in a way that suggests it explains everything, which, maybe, Ron thinks, it does.

“She—what?” he can’t process the thought though, because everything he knows about fishing winds down to the fact that it gets you dirty and that’s not a Parkinson thing, he’s sure.

“Pansy fishes,” Cassiopeia says patiently, as if she is explaining to a man why men cannot decide whether or not feminism is necessary, “I don’t know who you think these people are Ron, but I don’t think they are who you think they are.”

Ron doesn’t want to concede that she may very well have a very valid point.

“I don’t know,” he says childishly, “I just can’t imagine Draco Malfoy in the same room as me, not trying to curse me.”

The blonde rolls her eyes, letting Ron know he had sounded as childish as he thought he had.

“Draco Malfoy saves lives,” she says slowly and with a piercing look at her friend, “the first time I met him he had just performed a twelve-hour surgery on an eight-year-old and he was sitting by her bed to ensure she would wake up from it. With his hands he creates hope.”

There’s nothing Ron can say to that that wouldn’t make him hate himself even more.

 

Chapter Text

Number three: Coq au Vin

 


 

So instead, with his hands, he creates food – which isn’t exactly as awesome as creating hope, but both Cassiopeia and Pansy always deem it insta worthy and that’s good enough for him.

He knows that Draco tries to come home a little earlier than usual on Friday nights, so that he has time to rewind in his room before Pansy takes him bar-hopping, so the next Friday he decides to make coq au vin for when the blond comes home.

He takes his time trimming the rooster perfectly and Pansy brings out a bottle of Pinot Noir from their collection for him to use – apparently they keep their red wines in Pansy’s bedroom, where they are all carefully stacked in a beautifully handmade wooden wine-rack Pansy claims Draco has made, something Ron isn’t sure if he is supposed to laugh at or not.

When Draco comes home the whole apartment is smelling like luxurious food and Pansy and Cassiopeia can be heard from where they are bickering in the bathroom on who gets to shower first. He is wearing a suit again, a two piece navy blue one, with a purple tie to accompany it, an indicator that he has worked at a muggle hospital again today, as he wears robes on days that he visits Saint Mungo’s.

He puts his briefcase down and takes off his coat and then his lacquered shoes, all the while looking over at where Ron is bustling about the kitchen, heating the plates with the tip of his wand so he can plate the food.

“It smells absolutely delicious in here,” Draco remarks as he puts his shoes in the rack beside the door, and then, as an afterthought, “you haven’t finished eating yet?”

“We decided to wait for you,” Ron takes a moment to check on his simmering stock on the stove, poking the meat to determine that the dish is finished. The oven tings to signify his roasted vegetables are done, and as he takes the tray in his mitted hands carefully, he casts a gentle look in the blond’s direction, “I haven’t been quite myself lately. I’ve been… apprehensive, really, but I see now that there was no need to be. I am ready to be an adult now.”

He doesn’t really know what else to say, and he doesn’t know how to say it either, but from what he can tell there is a smile lingering in the corner of Draco’s lips as he studies Ron. Then, he smiles uprightly, his face appearing as if it is glowing with it, and Ron feels a stutter in his chest where his heart is.

“Shall we drink to that?” Draco offers, coming over to take two wine glasses from the cabinets.

“There’s some pinot noir left over,” Ron suggests, pointing at the bottle as he turns off the heat on the stove.

Draco looks over his shoulder as he stirs to check the thickness of his sauce and takes the pot off the heat – as the blond pours a glass he suddenly chuckles, laughter colouring his voice as he says, “you’re making coq au vin!”

Ron is impressed by Draco’s knowledge of French food, but then he also isn’t completely surprised, “correct,” he takes the glass that is being held out to him and watches as Draco swirls the wine in his own glass before drinking.

“I love coq au vin,” his smile is all teeth this time, something playful there.

“I’ll be sure to remember that,” Ron says and then he kind of wonders if this is considered flirting only to then realise that Draco Malfoy is looking absolutely stunning and that he would be a fool not to flirt with him and he tries to be okay with that thought, too.

The four of them enjoy dinner together in almost complete silence as everyone is taking seconds and looking incredibly pleased. They end up opening another bottle of wine and decide to all go bar-hopping together which seems like a good idea until three of them still need a shower and then it’s just a battle to get to the bathroom first.

Eventually they all end up getting dressed at a similar time, Cassiopeia finishing first but looking stunning as ever. Ron whistles as she emerges from her room, skin tight ripped blue jeans and a see-through black tank top showing off her black bra underneath, her eyes sparkling as she gives him a little twirl and a wink as he finishes dressing himself.

He’s wearing simple jeans and a purple shirt that reveals his strong forearms, and he’s feeling pleasantly buzzed from the wine he had already – there’s something in the way Cassiopeia is looking at him that tells him that it’s going to be a great night.

Pansy comes out only seconds later, wearing a glittery dark green sequins dress that just reaches her thighs, her lips dark red. She calls for Draco to hurry his ass up so she can highlight him and Ron is confused and amused at the same time, Cassiopeia focusing on getting her stilettos on.

The Slytherin girl gets a powder brush from her purse as Draco finally exits his room and Ron has to force himself not to stare because Draco is just looking very handsome. His hair is artfully ruffled on top and he’s wearing beige dress pants that reveal his ankles and a white shirt that is tucked in at the front but flowing out at the back.

Before Ron can be caught staring Pansy is all over him and when she pulls back his cheekbones are glowing in the lights. Ron forces himself to look away and then they’re apparating from the apartment and before Ron knows they’re having shots by the bar of a wizarding club.

There’s a lot of drinking and then a lot of drunk dancing and somewhere in the evening Ron is pretty sure he’s being sandwiched by Cassiopeia and Pansy and he has to sign some autographs which he’s sure are absolutely illegible but his belly is filled with a happy fire, his body moving to the beat and his eyes always straying to where Draco is doing the same.

Pansy is not very subtle in the way her lips come close to Cassiopeia’s ear as she shouts over the music, and Ron can’t help but grin and then orders more shots. He had known Cassiopeia had dressed to impress, and though Pansy may or may not have been her intended victim, it seems she has been very successful.

He doesn’t mind as he watches the two women laugh and then whisper closely again but he wishes he could stay so unaffected when he realises Draco is doing something very similar to one of the men that had offered him a drink.

Instead of dwelling on it he downs another shot and then Cassiopeia is pulling him back onto the dancefloor and he vaguely remembers returning to the apartment with only the three of them and Pansy slurring her words as she explains, “he does that sometimes.”

That night he doesn’t sleep well and he tosses and turns and stares at his ceiling for what feels like the longest time. He doesn’t understand his own emotions now, but he blames the state of his own rather depressing and none-existing love life for that. Draco Malfoy had been an unobtainable something at Hogwarts – an interest he could never dream to pursue – and then now living under the same roof makes his thoughts wander back to the idea of the blond for the first time in years.

He wakes up mere hours later with a pounding headache and the ridiculous notion that he dreamt of pasta that night.

To his surprise there’s sounds coming from the kitchen as someone is already bustling about – despite the fact that his clock only reads 5 AM. His morbid curiosity wins from his pounding head and he ventures out into the hallway in his pyjama pants and an old Weasley sweater he is keen on wearing when he goes to bed drunk.

In the kitchen Draco Malfoy is looking adequately rumpled – his hair is wet from a shower and he’s wearing silk pyjama shorts and a silk short robe over his chest. There’s bite-marks on his throat and he’s making what looks like an omelette, drinking black coffee while he whisks his egg and waits for the pan to heat.

There is something in Ron’s stomach that sets it on fire – maybe he accidentally swallowed a Blast-Ended Skrewt?

“Oh hey,” he goes for casual and he sounds like he hasn’t used his voice in years, rough with the alcohol and overuse the night before, “I didn’t expect to see you here this morning.”

“I got called into work and don’t like showering at a stranger’s place,” when he moves to pour the egg into the pan, the sleeve of his robe crawls up and Ron thinks he can see the boy’s dark mark for a moment except that the ink that reaches his wrist is a deep purple instead of black.

“So why didn’t you just bring the guy here?” he’s still sleepy and almost pushes a cup off the counter when he reaches for the coffee pot.

Draco smiles at him, “I don’t like having people in my space.”

It sounds like an odd thing to say after just having spent the night with someone you barely know and having their bite-marks on your skin to prove it – but Ron is not one to judge, not anymore, at least.

“Isn’t having sex all about getting people in your space?” he asks as he sits himself down, watching as Draco transfers the omelette to his already buttered rye bread.

“Not if I don’t have sex in my space,” the blond explains patiently, setting the pan to the side and then stretching out his arms to indicate the apartment – the sleeve reveals pink now, too, Ron is sure of it, “this, is my space.”

He sits next to Ron so he can have his breakfast, and Ron can’t help but feel a little confused and a whole lot intrigued. He can no longer see the ink on Draco’s forearm, but there’s other things that interest him, too.

“That’s a very interesting way of looking at things,” he admits his curiosity right away because it doesn’t seem like a smart thing to try and hide anything from Draco Malfoy, of all people.

Draco looks at him long and hard as he sips his coffee, the storms in his eyes raging as he seems to calculate Ron’s exact intention – perhaps Ron, was not the only one that was a little apprehensive now and then.

“You don’t agree?” the blond finally asks, before biting off a piece of his egg-sandwich.

“It’s not that, it’s just…” Ron hesitates because he’s not sure how to explain this without sounding stupid – he gulps down his coffee in hopes that he will sound a little more human as he says, “sex is the one time I really want to share my space, y’know?” he kind of shrugs, “I grew up with so many siblings I never wanted to share, but when I’m having sex I really want to be just me… and to be able to share that with my partner, I guess.”

Saying it out loud would probably have been less awkward if Draco wasn’t still studying him so intensely, and he feels his cheeks becoming red with more than just embarrassment.

“That’s very romantic,” Draco says eventually, and Ron can feel his cheeks heat up even more quite promptly.

“It’s not about romance,” he argues, finishing his coffee, “I just want to be able to be the best me I can be. Get the home advantage, right?”

They both laugh at that, a little too loud and Draco has to press his hand into his mouth to stop him from waking up the girls and it’s a little bit more adorable than it probably should be.

When Draco uses wandless magic to clean his plate Ron wonders about how that’s the first bit of magic he’s seen the boy perform in almost ten years and it’s weird because they’re wizards and magic is supposed to be a big part of their life. Draco doesn’t say anything even as he leads Ron to his bedroom to get him some hangover potion – Ron doesn’t ask why Draco lives here, in a muggle neighbourhood and using ridiculously little magic, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to know.

It doesn’t look like a bedroom at all. For one, there’s no bed.

The whole far wall is one big window, and there is a fluffy rug on the floor and a desk with a simple light and some yellow flowers. There are three comfy chairs, standing proudly in earthly colours in front of the desk with the one facing the two others. Behind the desk are pictures of what look like architectural plans, and there is a small closet next to the door that houses books. Nothing in the room betrays the fact that Draco is a wizard that needs sleep.

Draco ignores Ron’s look of bafflement and goes over to the shōji divider and slides it open – if possible Ron’s look turns even more astonished, and he wonders if perhaps Draco uses magic without using magic at all.

There is a lot of wood in Draco’s bedroom – triangle wooden frames hanging off the wall that hold potions and books and ingredients, and his bedframe looks like handmade wood too, a dark oak with drawers underneath. There is a white canopy flowing down over the silk sheets, and an old white vanity placed against the window – in this space too, the window takes up all of the far wall, with this difference that there is a tiny balcony with a work table stowed onto it – two small pictures sticking to the mirror, and some make-up brushes sitting in a jar on top of it.

One wall is a hidden wardrobe, indicated by the doorknobs, and although there are plants put on the floor and on the dress table and at the foot of the bed, there are none against that wall. Ron realises the succulents in the kitchen must be Draco’s, as he keeps some in his room too, the plants scattered around in glass jars or set in old teacups.

The whole room is bright and organised, surprising yet exceeding all expectations. There’s parts of Draco here that Ron recognises – mostly just the potions, the ingredient, the books and the tidiness though – and there’s parts of him that are still hidden now, shrouded behind the mask Draco always wore at Hogwarts.

“Pansy told me you make stuff out of wood,” is probably the least eloquent way to say it, but it doesn’t seem to defer the blond.

He’s going through the vials stacked in a hexagon-shaped frame, not even looking at Ron as he answers, “woodwork relaxes me,” and then when he does look at Ron he is smirking insufferably, so proud of his own joke, that Ron barks out a surprised laugh, amusement and disbelief mixing.

He gives Ron the potion and the moment has passed – Ron closes the shōji doors properly and resists the urge to sneak a peek and ten minutes later Draco comes out looking all prim and proper in a three-piece suit – dark grey today – and he waves his goodbye with a rather serious face.

 


 

Chapter Text

Number Four: For whatever Ails you

 

He sees only bits and pieces of Draco Malfoy over the next few days – Draco is always leaving early and he starts coming home later and later. He doesn’t drink wine in the evenings these days, and prefers to lock himself up in his room instead.

Pansy doesn’t say anything about it which makes Ron realise that this is not altogether weird behaviour, but then Pansy is also the only one who enters Draco’s room without knocking.

Most of the time he doesn’t give it any thought, because he is busy with helping out in the shop and Quidditch practice and meeting Cassiopeia some place for lunch. In the evening he browses his phone for new recipes and unicorns Cassiopeia and Pansy’s Magnow pictures and Pansy is always bringing home new movies for them to watch.

Come next Friday he thinks maybe he’ll never talk to Draco again because the boy is just so damn busy but it’s only seven PM when he comes home that day and Pansy and Ron are just washing the dishes by wand when they hear the click of the front door.

The way he basically throws his coat at the hanger speak volumes. Pansy takes a glass and a bottle of white wine from the fridge as a manner of consolation and Draco gives her the most pathetic look Ron has ever seen in his life.

“Bad day?” she sounds kind of like a mother would, which is weird because she’s wearing a black lace up mini skirt and stilettos and that’s not how Ron imagines mothers dress.

“I’ve seen enough insides to last me a lifetime,” Draco sighs and Ron makes a grossed-out face before shrieking, “wait what!?”

“Muggle surgery requires me to cut my patients open sometimes,” the blond explains patiently, taking a sip from the offered glass – when he sees Ron’s face of absolute horror he elaborates, “of course I also stitch them back up.”

“My father got stitches once!” Ron cringes at the memory, “it was horrible.”

“You can’t fix magical ailments with stitches,” Draco says tiredly, using the palm of his hand to press into his temple, “but if I cut someone open using muggle instruments, I can also sow them back up again using stitches.”

It makes sense but it also sounds absolutely horrendous at the same time, which Ron says – Draco just laughs at this and sips his wine.

Ron is about to offer him some leftover pasta primavera when there’s a knock to the door. Draco doesn’t look like he wants to get up and get it, but he does so anyway, buttoning his jacket up again as if he already knows what’s coming.

There is a middle-aged woman sobbing grossly, and Draco immediately offers her the handkerchief from his pocket, making a weird hand movement behind his back as he distracts her.

Pansy quickly takes her own wand and Ron’s from the counter and hides it behind her back, her face schooled into a smile – the middle-aged woman is a muggle, and a very distressed one at that.

“Doctor Malfoy, I’m so sorry…” she continues to sob as Draco invites her inside courteously, closing the door behind her with a soft click.

“Don’t worry about it miss Greyfield,” with a hand on her back he guides her into the direction of his room, “would you like some wine? Please go ahead, I will be right there.”

He comes back into the kitchen and takes the wine glasses Pansy offers him, kissing the top of her head thankfully. When Ron hears the click of his bedroom door, he gives Pansy a nasty look, “he’s going to cut her up here?”

Pansy looks equally as disgusted as Ron feels, but hisses, “of course not!” slapping him over the head with a towel, “he can only do that in the muggle hospital! He uses his office to talk!”

To be honest that just sounds really damn weird, but Ron decides not to comment on it. Instead he goes into his room to pin the pins and he has gotten at the shop today on his wall – he has been collecting pins and snow globes for years now, and keeps them in his room pinned to strips of colourful fabric or puts them where he would put his books if he had any.

He hears the woman leave the apartment almost an hour later, but doesn’t hear anything else after that. When he leaves his own room, he can hear Cassiopeia bickering with Pansy over their game, but the hallway that leads to Draco’s bedroom is empty.

Figuring the blond must still be hungry he decides to reheat the pasta he has made, using his wand to warm the plate as well. He knocks only once, a little wary that the blond may be asleep, but Draco immediately calls, “come in.”

He is sitting behind his desk now, writing down something in his notebook – there are two empty wine glasses on the low table between the comfortable chairs, indicating he sat there with his patient earlier. Ron puts the plate down next to the wine glasses, glancing around the room. Nothing has changed.

“I thought you might be hungry,” he says when Draco closes his notebook, storing it away in the desk drawer.

“That’s very kind of you,” Draco takes off his suit jacket, revealing his waistcoat and then taking that off too, folding both items over the back of his chair.

He rolls back his sleeves over his wrists properly and sits down on one of the comfortable chairs before taking the plate, poking at it with his fork and Ron tries not to stare.

Ron sits down opposite of him, watching him taste the first mouthful. There’s the hint of a smile around his lips, and Ron smiles too, because of it.

“So you talk to people here?” Draco nods through his mouthful, eyes fixed on the plate, “what about?” Ron questions eagerly.

The blond pokes at a piece of broccoli, contemplating his answer. Eventually, he looks up, meeting Ron’s eyes as he says, “whatever they want to talk about.”

At this Ron frowns. Who goes to a healer just to talk? The concept is strange – healers are expensive, he doesn’t know anyone who would see a healer just to have a conversation. Then, his eyes light up as he understands, “so you talk to people who are lonely?” he realises he doesn’t sound unlike a child in school, but then all of this is very new to him, and he wants to understand.

“Some of them are lonely, yes,” Draco nods his head, popping some broccoli into his mouth, “some have experienced a loss.”

“A loss…” Ron frowns again, and then he remembers Fred and he thinks he gets muggles a little better, “like a family member?”

Draco gives him an assessing look, his eyes studying Ron’s face before he answers, “yes, sometimes,” and then, “or even more common, a part of themselves.”

Ron’s lost again – he thinks he understands and then just like that muggles go back to making absolutely no sense. How can they be so similar to wizards and be so strange nonetheless – losing pieces of themselves as simply as losing your umbrella.

“How do you lose a part of yourself?” Ron may not be the most sensible man alive, but he was pretty sure people just didn’t go around losing bits and pieces.

His own brother has lost an ear, and no amount of talking is ever going to fix that, anyway. The whole idea is absurd – magic is magical, but no amount of magic can make talking magical enough to heal. Draco doesn’t seem to think so though, or he probably wouldn’t have a study just for talking. So he hesitates slightly, his eyes lowering back to the plate when he finally makes up his mind, “a traumatic experience,” his voice doesn’t hitch on the notes, as Ron imagined it would have – after all, they have had their share of traumatic experiences, the two of them, “a disorder, a harmful upbringing, etcetera. There are many ways to lose a part of yourself.”

Ron contemplates that for a moment, watching the way Draco would pick at each piece of pasta individually, eating slow and savouring every bite. He’s not sure if it’s his place to ask, but then he also knows that if he never asks he will never know if it’s his place to ask.

“Have you lost a part of yourself?” he eventually musters up the courage to ask and then Draco remains undisturbed, gazing away from his plate with an unreadable look on his face.

“Haven’t you?”

And Ron isn’t sure what to say to that.

 


 

Chapter Text

Number five: Cock au Vin

 

He’s not sure how it happens exactly, he only knows that it does – and very suddenly at that. One night Ron leaves his chess board out on the kitchen counter so that he can think about the next move he wants to make in the game he is playing with himself while cooking, and then the next morning someone has moved a white pion.

To be honest at first he’s not sure if it’s Cassiopeia messing with him – because she is absolutely horrid at chess, he knows from experience – or if Pansy has a knack for chess he never knew about, but in the end he isn’t surprised when it turns out to be Draco.

The blond is still busy as ever, but Ron leaves the board there and every move with black he makes there is a white move made the next day. Draco never moves the pieces when Ron can see him do it, which is why he is just kind of at a loss the first couple of days. He gets home from Quidditch practice always just expecting to catch someone in the act, but it never happens.

Except then he comes back from his afternoon workout and he takes a shower and when he comes back out Draco is in the kitchen, mid-move, his fingers posed on his bishop delicately.

He looks up with wide eyes and pursed lips and he looks adorable. He’s wearing old, torn jeans that reveal part of his thighs and a simple striped t-shirt that is too big – apparently he has just returned from going grocery shopping as there’s two bags set on the counter next to him.

Surprise makes room for something else entirely when his eyes make their way down Ron’s naked chest and he feels kind of proud, because yes he has a horrible scar of where he splinched his arm and yes the marks of the department of mysteries brain are still visible on his forearm but being a professional Keeper now means he’s worked hard to get his body in its current fit condition and there’s no use denying that the appreciative look Draco is giving him is meant to be taken as a compliment.

Ron gives a stupid grin because that’s what he does in most situations and he continues to rub at his hair with the towel in his hand, joking, “like what you see?”

Except that Draco says, “yes,” and all the rest is just escalation.

He doesn’t mean to kiss Draco right on his stupid face but then he also doesn’t mean not to kiss him because actually Draco’s lips are really pink and his cheekbones are glistening again and there’s just no way in hell that he won’t kiss Draco because he is still high on adrenaline and Draco is relaxing for the first time in weeks and not kissing is not an option.

And then it’s a little more than that because Draco is keening against Ron’s lips and his whole body just kind of pushes into him and then his hands are scratching down his biceps and it feels really good. And then they kind of automatically move back into Ron’s bedroom and Ron is pulling at Draco’s t-shirt and that’s that.

It’s the first time that Draco’s forearm is naked in front of him and he just kind of halts at the sight because there’s no horrid memory there; there are only flowers. There are red amaryllises, purple anemones, red asters, pink and purple carnations, and purple hydrangeas and irises. They come nicely together with black ink and the splatter of colour of the flowers make it look like a beautiful painting, winding itself around Draco’s lower arm and to his elbow.

He wishes he could stare at it for all eternity but then Draco is back in his arms and pushing up into another hard kiss and then he thinks that maybe he never wants to do anything else ever again. There’s something in the way Draco’s hands feel clawing at his arms and nothing feels quite as good as having Draco’s naked scarred chest against his own.

They end up on the bed because that’s the only logical move for them to make and when Ron pulls Draco’s jeans down his thighs he wants to kiss the marble skin all over because his legs are so strong and beautiful and he wants them wrapped around his waist forever.

Which is what happens, kind of. There is a lot of awkward fumbling with lube and condoms because Ron hasn’t had sex in ages and he kind of has to dig through a box of his things before he remembers that he’s a bloody wizard but then there’s a lot of sweet noises that Draco makes as Ron puts his hands on him.

It’s ridiculously fast because Ron hasn’t been with anyone in ages and Draco has been high-wired since the beginning – which Ron rightly assumes is due to stress – and they get to the point of no return too quickly, everything pulled taut until it explodes and they crash, sweaty and dirty and Ron might need another shower now.

He’s trying hard to even out his breaths and to not look like a creeper as he continues to stare at Draco – he has his eyes shut tight and his lips parted, one hand holding on to Ron’s and the other hiding between his spread thighs. When Draco turns to look at him he’s grinning, his chest heaving.

Ron grins then, too, and then kisses the blond again – because apparently he can, now.

Then, he gets up from the bed and stretches – just because he knows Draco is still watching him – before heading into the kitchen. He knows there is still some red wine leftover from where he drank it with Pansy the night before, and he gets one glass from the cabinet before heading back to his bedroom.

Draco seems completely unbothered by just about anything – the tenseness in his shoulders is finally gone and he has gone from carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders to an absolute kitten, body pink and flushed, curled into the soft sheets.

His eyes are soft, which in itself an amazing feat, as Draco Malfoy’s eyes are always just appropriately hard so that everyone knows not to try him – now, they are hooded grey, pleased when they meet Ron’s.

He holds out the bottle of wine and swishes it, before joking, “I heard you like a little vin with your cock?”

Draco lets out a surprised laugh, sweet and pure, and then a second later turns very serious all of a sudden, his eyes turning into slits. Ron watches keenly as the blond get up onto his knees, his buttocks flushed pinks and his spine curving.

“Come here,” his voice is soft but there is no mistaking it for anything but a command.

Ron doesn’t consider disobeying, just kind of stumbles over their clothes to get to the bed – he lets Draco manoeuvre him onto his back and then just stares in awe as the boy gets on top of him. Draco’s body is hard lines with soft hips and milky skin. There’s scars running all over his torso and the pinkness of his nipples is almost obscene. Ron cannot look away.

The blond takes the glass from Ron carefully, fills it halfway and then puts the bottle back into Ron’s hand – it’s a little awkward where Draco makes him hold it in the air, and he’s afraid he might spill it over himself if he doesn’t keep still. Draco’s smirk is lecherous, his eyes sparkling.

“Now,” he breathes in the aroma of the wine before take a sip – his neck looks inches longer when he swallows, gracefully outstretched, “I’m going to ride you and we’ll see which I can finish first, you, or the bottle,” there is a twitch of anticipation in Ron’s groin and from the way Draco’s grin broadens he can tell the boy felt it too, “try not to drop it.”

In the end Ron argues that Draco is just a very slow wine sipper but then he has to just rest for a while because his body is way too tired for how little he actually had to do the second time around. They lay in the bed and Ron’s fingers skirt down Draco’s arm while the blond closes his eyes, already dozing off. He wants to commit to memory how pretty Draco Malfoy looks, post-coitus and pleasantly flushed all over, because nothing has ever been prettier and nothing ever will.

“You should get yourself a plant,” Draco says drowsily, moving closer into the redhead’s touch as his cheek is cupped.

“I don’t know what plant would fit me,” Ron replies equally sleepy, and then he presses a kiss to Draco’s forehead.

The blond hums in reply, his nose crinkling cutely.

Ron can’t help but think that something important has just happened – even if he can’t process it fully yet – and with that thought manifested and hopping around his brain like a young bunny he falls asleep.

 


 

Chapter Text

Number Six: it’s a Muggle Concept

He wakes up to an empty bed which, although not surprising, is a little bit heart breaking. The pillow next to his smells like Draco’s cologne and it’s kind of comforting, even if he feels stupid for noticing it.

It’s not weird – the fact that it’s not weird is actually weirder – because Draco is as cool about this as he is about everything else. Ron pretends to be cool, but then he’s really good at pretending.

He meets Cassiopeia for afternoon drinks after she’s called him in complete panic ranting about her latest translation job, and after four mimosas he’s saying, “I had sex with Draco and not having sex with Draco sucks balls.”

Cassiopeia doesn’t even look surprised and when this insults him she just rolls her eyes, “you like them brainy,” and Ron blushes.

It’s silly because it’s like Cassiopeia already knows everything – which she probably does – and she’s as supportive as one can be while pointing out that his current object of affection shows slim to no signs of being interested in a steady relationship.

He tries not to take it too hard because in all honesty she has a point and if Ron was really interested in a relationship he probably shouldn’t have just pulled him into his room and had his way with him. Draco Malfoy is probably the kind of guy that wants flowers and dates and fancy wine and Ron would never deny him that.

Except he kind of has.

Pansy doesn’t say anything about it which causes Ron a whole lot of stress because he just keeps waiting for it to happen. But it doesn’t. She still plays videogames with him and offers wine from her bedroom for him to use in his dishes and she’s always just in the apartment in short skirts and she always seems to be taking off her shoes or putting new ones on with a small smile and sharp eyeliner.

As it is he has different problems because these days he’s finding less and less pleasure in Quidditch practices and it’s like before, when he had been working in the shop for four years and it had started feeling like just going through the motions. He had thought playing professional Quidditch would be the one thing that he could never bore of, but these days he’s finding it hard to get up in the morning with only practice on his brain.

He comes home one evening and he decides to make apple pie because it’s one of the things that relaxes him except that when it’s time to roll out the dough he is more angrily beating at it than anything else.

Cassiopeia is having drinks with her Japanese clients and when Pansy comes in and sees him having a go at the pastry she just kind of makes a face and heads into the living room. He ignores her look – because Pansy may not be as horrible as he had thought at Hogwarts, he also knows from experience that she prefers hard alcohol over heart-felt conversation – continuing to roll out the pastry which he knows he’s overworked by now.

By the time Draco comes home Pansy has gone back out – throwing the redhead a pitiful look on her way – and Ron has given up all pretence and is using his rolling pin to bang at his dough instead.

Draco doesn’t say anything and Ron puts down the rolling pin awkwardly, suddenly embarrassed. After removing his jacket and shoes, he passes by Ron to take a bottle of rosé wine from the fridge – he then kind of nudges his head in the general direction of the hall and Ron follows him into his bedroom, shoulders slumped.

He doesn’t speak as he pours Ron a glass, and then just settles on the comfortable chair, his own still empty. Ron sits down across from him and when he takes a drink he realises his hands are shivering with his pent-up stress.

They sit in silence for a moment, and then Draco asks, “would you like to talk about why you were butchering your pastry dough?”

At first Ron isn’t really sure himself – except maybe he is and saying it is just hard. He doesn’t know if he can admit it to himself out loud, either, except then it just kind of slips out, as if by coincidence: “I hate my job.”

Draco says nothing.

“I thought that becoming a professional Keeper would make my family proud but now it’s just like going through the motions,” it’s embarrassing to admit it – years of lying during magazine interviews and smiling as George jests about his job make his cheeks flush now.

To his surprise, Draco just asks: “what did you hope to achieve by becoming a professional Keeper?”

“A pat on the back?” Ron grins as he tries to joke, but Draco’s face remains rigid, his eyes searching for something he seems to believe he can find in Ron’s.

“And do you think you will achieve that?” he asks instead, and Ron has to pause for a moment.

First of all he has intended for it to just be a joke but then when he thinks about it, it feels like maybe this is something important, and then when he thinks of how to answer that question all he can say is “no.”

Draco just kind of looks at him for a while longer – not a very special look, either, just a very mundane expression on his face – and then leans forward to fill his own glass with wine.

Before taking a sip, he gently offers: “sometimes we need to take a step back to realise that the expectations we perceive people have of us are impossible to exceed. We cannot spend our life trying to chase other’s approval.”

Ron doesn’t want to think about how true that is – and he doesn’t want to think about how that pretty much sums up most of his life, either, because that’s just saddening. He watches Draco take a drink and the way his throat looks as he swallows, and he feels arousal pooling in his abdomen.

“Is that why you became a muggle doctor?” Ron feels like maybe he’s prying, but Draco’s face remains void of any feelings of disdain.

He swirls his wine in his glass, and looks at some point somewhere around the neck of the wine bottle as he replies with a question, “do you know what Avada Kedavra does to the human body?”

Ron frowns at this. It seems pretty obvious that he has no way of knowing this. He has seen the result of what Avada Kedavra does to the body; stone-cold eyes and death, but he doesn’t know the semantics.

“Nothing,” Draco shrugs his shoulders and their eyes meet, “it just makes it stop. There is no plausible explanation and therefor nothing you can do to either prevent it, or fix it. For years I felt as if I should have tried to help professor Burbage, when in reality she had been dead from the moment Voldemort raised his wand.”

He hasn’t heard that name in a long time, but even now it has this certain effect of making any room seem cold and dark. Ron tries to ignore the temperature drop because some things need said, after all.

“So you became a doctor because you can help the muggles?” it’s not really a question but it sounds like one when Ron says it.

Draco doesn’t answer right away, instead seemingly lost in thought for a moment. When their eyes meet again, they’re stormy, “not all of them,” and there’s so much heart in just that tiny sentence that Ron feels it in his own chest, “but when I fail, at least their body can tell me why.”

There is a sad severity in that statement that makes Ron wonder how he could have ever thought of Draco as anything but heartbroken. There is a pain in his voice and suddenly they are eleven again and all Draco wants to do is what he has been taught is right – even if it is wrong – and there is a kind of thuck-thump-thump in Ron’s heart at the realisation that they are not as different as he’s always thought, actually, they’re eerily similar in the way that they just want to please the people closest to them.

He swallows the emotion threatening to claw at his throat and speaks into his next sip of wine, “those lost pieces, can we get them back?”

“Most lost pieces are not as much lost as they are hidden,” his voice sounds lighter now, and he crosses his legs with an air of nonchalance, “amongst others, therapy is a useful way to help locate them and give them a voice.”

“Therapy?” it’s not the first time he’s heard the word, but the context is all wrong and he frowns his brows together at the sound of it.

Draco almost laughs – but only almost, the corners of his mouth crinkling – his fingers delicately playing over the rim of his glass.

“It’s a muggle concept,” he explains, ever-patient with Ron’s lack of understanding of most things muggle – which is just an amusing concept, seeing how Ron’s father is the head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office at the ministry of Magic, and Draco’s is a former Death Eater.

Yet here they are, defying all the odds with a smile on their face and a half full glass of wine.

“How did you find out about it?” Ron asks, uprightly curious.

Draco seems mildly surprised at the question, and he makes a face as he tries to remember. It’s a cute face, Ron decides, and then he has to hide his blush behind his glass, hoping the blond will write off the pink as slight inebriation.

“When I was in medical school one of my fellow classmates told me I was showing symptoms of PTSD, and told me I should consider therapy,” his pale eyebrow tips up at the memory, “I had no idea what he meant of course, so I just nodded and went on my way.”

Ron laughs as that, because the idea of it is too ridiculous, and he has to force his face back into semi-calmness before he can ask, “so did you ever try it?”

“Of course not,” Draco rolls his eyes, his canines showing as he grins, “I just became a therapist instead.”

Ron thinks he might never breathe again, he’s laughing so loud. They spend the rest of their time together finishing their drinks and making silly jokes and when an hour has passed and Ron complains about his absolutely destroyed pastry, Draco tells him, “you have to do what makes you happy. Not what you think will make others happy,” and at first Ron doesn’t really see the correlation but then he gets up and heads back into the kitchen and he doesn’t finish the apple pie until around midnight but it smells delicious and the taste is to die for and it’s worth it.

He sleeps wonderfully that night – perhaps the best sleep he’s had since he slept with Draco – and he can’t stop thinking about all these things the blond had told him, about the little lost pieces somewhere inside of himself, just looking for a voice. He thinks of how long he has been missing those pieces, and how long those voices have been silenced.

Now most days when he wakes up he thinks about pastry and how wonderfully perfect that apple pie had been – on days when he is feeling no stress he can make magical food without using actual magic and it is wonderful. Creating things for his own pleasure is much more rewarding than anything else has ever been, just that it also has always felt selfish. Even as he is cooking for Cassiopeia – and now, Pansy and Draco – he feels a tinge of guilt at the idea that he is doing it more so for his own entertainment than he is for their enjoyment.

But has Draco not told him that it is more important to enjoy his own presence, than it is for people to enjoy him?

He thinks about that, a lot, too, and one day he comes home and Pansy is wearing another one of her mini-skirts but with absolutely ridiculous boots underneath. She isn’t embarrassed about it, either, even as she strips the rubber off – they reach her thighs – remarking that her colleagues would shoot her right in the face if they ever caught her wearing them.

It’s simple, she explains it over the counter as she watches Ron prepare their dinner – she likes fishing more than anything else, and the opinion of her colleagues can not change that. Although she knows she has a responsibility in her company – a fashion corporation – what she does in her own time is her business alone. She loves fashion, and she loves fishing, and these two things are hers and hers alone – so no one else’s opinion differs her from what she knows so clearly.

“You know what I like about Draco?” she asks and then pouts when Ron slaps her hand away as she tries to poke it in his cream sauce, “he has always just carved wood. I mean, even when everything was so fucking messed up at Hogwarts and his dad thought it was fucking weird, he still just did it you know. Like yeah his brain was completely fucked up back then but there was still this small part of him that realised how important carving wood was to his sanity. And I mean he’s my best friend, you can’t be friends with someone like that and then just decide that just because your likes are perceived as weird, you should quit. Because Draco went through hell, waving his carving knife along the way. Least I can do is go fucking fish whenever the fuck I want to.”

Ron thinks she’s swearing a lot because she brought home three trout and an empty bottle of firewhisky, but he doesn’t mention it because she has a point. It’s hard to live in an apartment with three people who are embarrassingly completely themselves and still feel like there is something he needs to hide somehow.

Because Cassiopeia gets a lot of hate from people until they find out it’s not her fault because she was raised Japanese, not British, and her looks don’t magically decide her upbringing; but she takes it in stride, too, and it never stops her from bowing to Japanese and European clients alike, and she is never embarrassed when she visits her parents and comes back with millions of selfies in formal wear, running around the streets of Kyoto in zōri.

Sometimes things that are inside of you are seen as weird or scandalous and that’s just life, Ron decides. That’s exactly it. And his mother had been thrilled for all of two seconds when he had told her about his career change to Keeper, and then she had already been fussing about something else, and that too, was his life.

It is silly doing a job hoping for praise he will never receive anyway. So he decides to quit and really do it this time. He starts by writing a formal letter about it and then goes into his coach’s office early morning so he can deliver the letter in person too. The coach is not happy but, so Ron decides, his own happiness on the matter outweighs the coach’s.

He has to finish the season, which is understandable, and he leaves the office feeling like he has accomplished something and he feels proud. Which is stupid because he just quit his job; he’s pretty sure pride is not the emotion you should get from that, but then again he is a Gryffindor and he takes pride in most things other people wouldn’t.

When he arrives back home he feels elated and nauseous at the same time. For a moment he just stands in the kitchen, at a loss. He starts feeling uncomfortably self-aware of how he’s just gone out in his sweats and tank-top to finalise a decision that has the power to change his whole life.

He fiddles with the keys in his hand and stares at the blackboard where Pansy had written a crude message the other day and there’s bleary morning sun streaming in through the windows and for a second it feels as if he’s looking at himself from some faraway place and everything is surreal.

And then Draco walks in, still in his pyjamas – they’re black and have cute little glow-in-the-dark planets and constellations on them – nursing a cup of coffee with his hair adorably tangled. He looks only mildly surprised to see Ron, and then pauses too, following the redhead’s gaze around the room curiously.

If he realises Ron’s distress, he says nothing, and Ron watches as his hair falls into his face, almost white in the yellow sunlight. He wants to kiss the boy all over his stupid sleepy face – instead he says: “I quit my job.”

Draco rubs at his eyes with the palm of his hand, and his smile is lazy as he looks at Ron.

“Congratulations, good on you,” he says, setting his mug down on the counter, “we should celebrate.”

Ron blushes and he doesn’t know why. But Draco looks – albeit sleepy – uprightly happy for him, with no expectations or opinions on how he should continue now. It’s a weird feeling, to be trusted like that, and Ron awkwardly scratches the back of his neck as he suddenly feels even more self-conscious.

“Oh, that reminds me!” Draco suddenly perks up, spurring into action – much more lively this time, all the indications of fatigue abruptly gone.

He disappears back into his room and Ron watches him go in surprise, only to then almost jump a foot in the air in shock when wooden pots with sunflowers in them came floating back inside the room. Draco levitates them skilfully onto the counter, and Ron can only stare in awe; the pale wood has been worked beautifully, and has received a colour treatment so that pastel blues and pinks seem to fade out from bottom to top. They are all a little funnily shaped, with random corners that have been sanded perfectly. The sunflowers are like the pots, all different sizes, but all equally beautiful, already in full bloom with the brown heart opened up.

“I thought sunflowers would fit you best,” Draco explains with a big smile – ever-radiant – as if he is continuing a conversation they had seconds ago, “even in the darkest of times, they always gravitate towards the sun.”

Ron is stunned into silence. He knows Draco is trying to tell him something – something nice too, and profound, like ye shall overcome – and it’s teetering around the edges of his brain, just out of his reach. However, Draco is not waiting for a reply, and he just helps Ron move the pots into his bedroom and then watches as the redhead fusses around, trying to decide where they should go.

He ends up putting them near the window, where they would have a lot of sunlight to soak up during the day, and then he feels kind of awkward about not having said anything yet because Draco has made him these beautiful flower pots with his hands.

Eventually he just kind of stops trying to look for the right words and takes the blond into a hug, holding him tight. Draco doesn’t say anything but Ron thinks maybe he understand because he’s gripping onto Ron’s shoulders to keep him close.

And that’s enough.

 


 

Chapter Text

Number Seven: a lil’ puddin’ all around

For the next couple of days Ron is feeling wonderful and Draco is looking progressively more tired.

In the mornings he goes to help Fred out at the shop, and he comes home around noon and looks for new recipes and tries new cooking techniques and makes cake so that when Pansy comes home she complains about her diet but eats a slice anyway and Cassiopeia is always forwarding him new restaurants she wants to visit with him. Some days they go drinking and take selfies and some days they stay in and talk or watch television and still take selfies and Draco’s smile is always a little too tight and he has bags under his eyes and some days he forgets to move a chess piece and it’s heart-breaking.

Cassiopeia takes him for brunch at a new place and the cheese sandwiches are great but Ron can’t help but think “I can do better” and it’s stupid because he’s thinking about how cool it would be to open up a shop and have it be furnished with Draco’s hand-made wooden stools and counters.

He tells Cassiopeia about the flowers and she smiles so wide, almost as if to say “Draco Malfoy is a little puddin’” and then she goes on to really say: “he’s such a puddin’,” and they laugh and it’s nice. She’s encouraging like only she can be, with approval and lame pick-up tips and the notion that, “maybe he hasn’t had a relationship because he’s not ready,” and “but you won’t know until you ask him,” and it scares the fuck out of him but it’s nice to know she has his back.

Draco drinks one glass of wine every night and he has these ghoulish bags under his eyes when he comes home from work and it’s ridiculous because he’s going to bed without dinner these days. It’s like he’s a spring wind too tight that can break at any moment and he’s not saying a word, just smiles when Pansy offers him wine and winks when Cassiopeia expresses her concern.

One evening the three of them are having dinner when Draco comes in – he doesn’t even take off his shoes or jacket, just waves at them and heads into his room without a word. His hair looks flat and it’s depressing, how drawn into himself he looks.

“He hasn’t been sleeping well, nothing a good shag can’t fix,” Pansy rolls her eyes when Cassiopeia worries – as if all people should know by now that Slytherins get their groove on to avert a burnout, “but he won’t get his grindr on.”

“His what?” Ron frowns over dinner – because one, sex usually gives him more stress, not less, and two, the idea that to Draco climaxing is a way to dissolve all his tension is not completely ridiculous but extremely arousing, but that doesn’t change the fact that half of what Pansy just said makes no sense whatsoever.

“Grindr, it’s an app for hockups,” Pansy holds her glass out into a toast which Cassiopeia meets her in, both girls baring their canines.

“There’s an app for that?” Ron frowns even more now because it doesn’t sound like something Draco would ever indulge in.

“There’s an app for everything,” Cassiopeia says wisely, and then: “a good shag helps me take the edge off, too. And Draco is so handsome, he’d find a match immediately!”

Which is true, probably.

And just like that Ron feels something else entirely because the idea of Draco and someone together, like that, it makes him cringe.

He decides to do some research on how best to make a beautiful boy completely boneless – because he knows he’s really good with his hands but he’s not the best at mouth-on-dick and although he’s made many a boys cum without touching them he doesn’t want to go all the way because that would just distract him from his mission. His mission is giving Draco Malfoy an orgasm so good he will stop worrying and sleep for days. He cannot get side-tracked along the way.

When Draco receives a patient in his office one night, Ron knows it’s time for him to make his move. He drinks a glass of wine just because he feels nervous, like an inexperienced teenager again, and he feels absolutely stupid when he checks his own reflexion in the mirror as if he’s preparing for a date or something – he isn’t but he still wears his ripped jeans and a too loose tank top because he knows how good he looks in them.

After the patient’s left the apartment goes eerily quiet – Draco hasn’t left his office and Pansy and Cassiopeia have gone drinking together – so that he can hear the clock ticking on the mantle in the living room. He waits for any sound of Draco moving from his office to his bedroom, but when none come, he decides to venture out.

Draco is sitting in one of his comfy chairs, wearing a simple two-piece black suit today with his jacket open, the top buttons of his shirt undone. His shoes and socks are next to his chair, his feet resting against the soft carpet. He looks good, Ron thinks, despite the fact that his hair is a little matted to his forehead and he’s using the delicate fingers of one hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. His eyes are closed, but the bags underneath them are still visible.

He doesn’t even seem to notice Ron until the redhead clicks the door closed behind him – the grey eyes open immediately, fixing on him. His features change into schooled politeness, his voice betraying nothing of his fatigue as he asks: “can I help you?”

Ron feels a little sad for him, at the idea that he feels that he somehow owes Ron anything; so that he feels that he needs to hide his true emotions from him.

So he just shakes his head no and then says: “you really helped me figure out what is best for me and I can never thank you enough for that, but now you’ve got these horrible bags under your eyes,” Draco’s eyebrow raises high to meet his fringe, insulted, “and I want to help you this time, okay?”

The blond looks suspicious, to say the least, his eyes narrowing at the words. For a moment it seems as if Ron has misinterpreted their relationship and has made a grave mistake except then Draco nods and relaxes back into his chair, slumping slightly.

Ron smiles at the trust behind the gesture, padding over to the other boy carefully. He hovers over him – storms raging in Draco’s eyes as they regard him curiously, measuring him up – and then gets down on his knees.

If Draco is surprised he doesn’t show it – he just continues to watch Ron carefully, deliberately, as Ron works on undoing his belt buckle with steady fingers. Inside he’s dying with nerves, but his body knows this – he has been in this situation before, and if he just pretends that Draco is just another boy to line the side of his bed he can act like there is no other emotion hidden inside his belly.

Draco lifts his hips to assist Ron in the removal of his dress slacks – Ron enjoys the sensation of the full buttocks in his hands as he brings the fabric down. He’s already attentive, twitching rather adorably in his blue briefs, and Ron watches him fill out slightly as he runs his hands over the pale thighs.

When he’s removed the briefs as well, Ron folds them together with the slacks and places them on the table behind him – it’s a distraction and he knows it because Draco is beautiful and just the sight of him is making Ron hard.

He reveals the lube he has been hiding in his back-pocket and then he helps the blond raise his own legs, spreading them and pulling his knees to his chest with his hands hooked underneath them and Draco doesn’t look the least bit apprehensive and Ron wonders if it’s a doctor thing because he’s never been one hundred percent comfortable bearing himself before anyone like that.

It’s ridiculously sexy though, and Ron finds that he is beyond excited as he clumsily runs his hands down the pale buttocks. He has never done this before but it doesn’t feel strange as he kisses into his thigh, pressing his lips into the tender skin and sucking a hickey there.

Draco smells almost tangy here, and it’s kind of addicting in a way that Ron wants to taste him too, drawing the tip of his tongue down. The sound Draco makes is pure sin, between a moan and a mewl and Ron can feel the delicate thighs shake with his pleasure as he diligently tongues his spot.

He continues fondling the blond’s thighs and stomach, rubbing his hands over them in soothing motions to help him relax – and it’s like Draco just melts for him, the way his whole body moves to meet Ron’s ministrations and his abdomen flushes pink at the attention.

He fumbles around to get the lube where he needs it but when he introduces the first finger there is no resistance and Draco is so hot burning up from the inside out and it’s addictive. Ron is quite sure he never wants to do anything else ever again and when he kisses against the perineum and Draco mewls he thinks maybe the blond feels the same way.

Ron is pretty sure he’s doing exactly what the internet told him to and he’s curving his finger, two knuckles in, and there’s a sound but Draco is also overall just really tense – in his shoulders and in his steel gaze and Ron finds himself pressing kisses into the pale belly and whispering: “just relax,” like a mantra and it’s a little bit embarrassing but Draco’s brow furrows and he bites his lip and he looks like he’s trying.

“I—can’t—“ he makes some kind of grabby hands motion in the general direction of his suit and moans, “music,” and then just like that a tango starts playing and Ron’s mouth is kind of busy with mapping the soft curve of the blond’s buttocks but he remembers to be sufficiently stunned at how good Draco’s wandless magic is.

The tension drains from his shoulders with every swipe of Ron’s tongue and the intrusion of his fingers and Draco kind of slackens, relaxing in his chair – and it’s pretty, how he opens up eagerly.

Ron imagines that he’s not exactly good at it because he’s actually quite clumsy and he doesn’t really care much about it either, to be honest, because Draco is kind of addictive and he feels like he could just eat the boy whole. And apparently he’s doing something right because Draco’s hips are kind of writhing kind of bucking and it’s like he just wants to be closer, everywhere, hands grasping at Ron’s desperately and head lolling forward.

And it’s glorious because as Ron continues Draco’s face flusters and his hair mats to his forehead and his eyes are so lazy, tired grey as moans fall freely from his lips.

He’s not sure what he’s supposed to be looking for – if there are any tell-tale signs – so he just keeps going even as his fingers get tired and his jaw is aching and then the noises kind of change and he thinks maybe it’s coming, now. Because suddenly Draco is gasping and then mewling again and then his hands claw at Ron’s forearms, keeping his hand still as his fingers push in all the way and his body kind of snaps – and then he howls as he throws his head back and his whole body stiffens.

His toes are curling and his back arches in a bow and Ron can’t stop watching, mouth against his puckered hole and it’s like he can’t breathe because Draco’s abdomen is vibrating and his whole body is tight and he looks ethereal and he wishes he can go blind just so he never has to see anything else ever again, the sight of this man the last thing to be burned on his retina forever.

Draco’s body is quivering now, and his cock is twitching angrily into his stomach as he pants through what Ron assumes is the aftermath. His chin is against his chest and when he looks up his eyes are fire, and he doesn’t have to say anything for Ron to know what it means.

So he forgets about his own resolutions and fumbles with his own belt and then awkwardly pours half the bottle of lube down his shaft and Draco brings his lower body off the chair, down onto his unstable legs. He squats down rather ungracefully with his hands searching for leverage on the arms of the chair and Ron guides himself to where Draco is calling for him and the blond lets out the prettiest sigh as he pushes all the way home in one slick slide.

It takes mere seconds – Draco’s pale thighs are shivering with the strain and he manages to kind of tilt up his hips once and then twice and then his knees knock into Ron’s sides and then with a cut-off curse and a string of moans he’s coming all over their chests, soiling their clothes and hitting his own chin with it and he doesn’t seem to give a fuck so Ron decides he doesn’t, either.

The song changes to a slower one and Draco slumps forwards – both groaning as his legs fail him and he kind of collapses onto Ron, still hard inside his body – his sweaty forehead bumping into Ron’s shoulder.

Ron can’t help it but he feels like maybe someone’s put a spell on him and all he wants to do is keep Draco hidden in his chest for ever. As the blond continues to pant into his skin he presses kisses into his sweaty hair an murmurs gently of how amazing Draco has done and how beautiful he is, and Draco’s cheeks are pink and his thighs are soft where they hug Ron’s body.

He uses his wand to clean them both up and when he goes to help Draco lift off his body he’s met with a meek, “but you didn’t come yet,” and Draco’s brow ruffles as he supresses a yawn, and Ron can’t stop smiling as he answers.

“Don’t worry about me,” he says, and, “you did so beautifully,” and Draco’s eyes droop shut tiredly.

He’s very light when Ron lifts him up into his arms and he makes this really cute sleepy sound in the back of his throat as he’s carried over to his bedroom.

By the time Ron puts him to bed the blond is already breathing deeply, curling on top of his silk sheets to get into a comfortable position. Ron watches as his eyebrows flutter against his still pink cheeks and how his dress shirt crinkles and reveals his abdomen. He heads over to where he thinks he’ll find Draco’s clothes, opening the build-in doors to reveal the boy’s closet.

Inside are neat little piles and more clothe hangers than Ron can count but what grabs his attention are the pictures Draco has hung on the inside of the closet doors – he has noticed the pictures on the vanity before, but here inside the blond’s closet are dozens of them, and it’s somehow just really adorable.

There’s a picture of him and Pansy, fishing – they’re both wearing silly boots and silly smiles and standing amidst a stream and picture-Draco waves at him, the wave too, silly – and one of a handsome black boy Ron recognises to be Blaise Zabini, taking turns with Draco as they gaze through a brass telescope at the star-filled night. They don’t turn to Ron, instead talking amongst themselves, and he feels a pang of jealousy in his stomach but then there’s a baby picture of the blond and his mother and he has to smile again because Andromeda is in the picture too and both her and Narcissa are lifting one of Draco’s chubby hands to wave at Ron.

In another picture with Theo they are both in their underwear getting dressed in front of Draco’s vanity and Pansy – also in just in her underwear – is dusting glitter over their revealed shoulders and there’s one picture where he’s wearing blue jeans and sitting on a bench with legs spread almost obscenely and his t-shirt is too short, revealing his pale abdomen and a belly button piercing and Ron wants to think “vain!” but to be honest if he had pictures of himself looking that hot he would probably hang them up too.

Teddy Lupin is with him in another picture, and he’s crying because his face is changing constantly without his consent and all Draco does is kiss the crown on his head and hold him in his arm and the boy seems to quiet down instantly.

Only a handful of pictures are not moving, including a group picture where Draco’s face is a little lost in the crowd of what look like graduates, and another one where Draco is at the centre of four girls, everyone in their teens, and they’re wearing white tights and black leotards and everyone is holding a bouquet of white flowers, smiles bright.

The biggest surprise however, is a picture of Ron, happily waving at himself – it’s a selfie that they took the first time they had gone out together, and Cassiopeia is making faces at him and Pansy and Draco look exasperated but happy, Draco going as far as to wink at real-life Ron.

Ron realises he’s been staring at the pictures curiously for too long when Draco makes a little whinny sound from the bed and he’s shaken back to reality. He finds a pair of silk pyjamas and closes the closet quietly before walking back to where Draco is already dozing off.

It’s easy to get him to sit up again, even as the blond pouts and his eyes stay shut tight – and then it’s easy to take off his dress shirt too, and Ron dresses him in his pyjamas gently before helping him crawl under his blankets.

Draco finally looks up at him through bleary eyes when Ron gets into a fight with the canopy and he watches half-amused half-confused as he burrows his cheek into his pillow. When Ron notices the stare he just smiles in what he hopes is a kind manner and Draco’s fingers brush at his hair lazily, eyes fixed on his face with an odd determination.

When he speaks it’s just a tired gruff, near illegible. “I lost a patient,” is what he says, and then Ron doesn’t really know what to say because he’s not sure he understands.

Has one of Draco’s patients found another counsellor? Did one of the patients at the hospital wander off on their own when they weren’t supposed to?

He’s pretty sure Draco is just sharing random trivia with him in these seconds before sleep takes him but then after the boy has started snoring and Ron leaves the room he can’t help but think of how heartbroken he’d looked as he’d said it.

 


 

Chapter Text

Number Eight: Succulents are Friends, not Flowers

The next morning he wakes up after the best sleep he’s had in ages – he jerked off two times in the shower the previous night and had been spent by the time he got to bed – and he decides to make some sweetcorn fritters and a sweet potato salad for his late breakfast.

He’s almost finished when Pansy comes in from the living room – she’s still dressed in her cotton nightgown and her make-up is a little runny and she generally just looks like Cassiopeia drank her under the table twice, but her eyes are sharp as she watches Ron finish his fritters.

He thinks about what Draco had said the night before and wonders if Pansy knows whether or not losing a patient is a bad enough thing to be losing sleep over. He wonders if maybe he’s missed something – something important that explains everything – because he usually does.

When he goes to ask Pansy, “so when a doctor that treats muggles says he’s lost a patient what does it mean exactly?” her eyes widen before he’s even finished talking and she slams her head down onto the counter so hard Ron’s sure she’s bruised it – and now, instead of worrying about one crazy Slytherin, he finds himself worrying about two.

“He lost a patient? Oh great and I’ve been badgering him for drinks for days now,” she rants into the marble kitchen top, the sound slightly muffled, “he must hate me!”

“I’m sure he still loves you,” Ron says, even though he’s not sure, because he’s not sure of anything now, “I don’t—“

“It means a patient died,” Pansy lifts her head back up abruptly and there’s a red spot on her forehead that looks like it hurts, “one of his patients died and I suggested we just go get sloppy drunk,” and she groans as she returns her head to the counter, a little less hard this time.

Ron feels like a blasted-ended skrewt has just gone off in his stomach, making him feel nauseous and sick and generally bad – because Draco had tried to tell him this very important something and he’d been an absolute twat about it.

Shit!” he looks around desperately as he tries to find a way to fix this and his voice is just a whine as he complains, “he told me and I just— oh Merlin I have to apologise!”

Pansy looks uprightly confused as he fusses on the spot, waggling his hands in the air awkwardly as he tries to think of a way he can properly express his sympathies. His eyes fall on the row of succulents and there’s one that’s very pretty and pink and it reminds him of how pink Draco’s skin had been the night before and he kind of grabs it triumphantly, “I should give him flowers!” he exclaims, “where is he?!”

He knows he must sound a little bit like a maniac – and if he hadn’t an inkling, the look on Pansy’s face would have been a dead giveaway – but he doesn’t really care so much either because he makes stupid mistakes every single day and he learns from them too, mostly, but he also knows that when he messes things up he should take responsibility to fix them again, too.

“He’s working at the hospital on fifth street today,” Pansy tips her head slightly to the left, “you’re going to bring him his own decoration?”

“It looks like a flower!” Ron sounds too desperate now, even he himself can tell, and there’s something akin to pity in Pansy’s eyes as she scrunches up her face.

She uses her wand to summon some Tupperware and gives him a look that betrays her sympathy and amusement as she says, “how about you bring him lunch? He’ll like that.”

So Ron nods and he finds himself rushing out of the house with Tupperware and Draco’s pink succulent and still in his sweats and the shirt he wore to bed, but he doesn’t care – or at least, not about that.

He takes a taxi like Pansy told him too, and even uses the muggle coins she’d given him to pay for the fare – he has never been to a muggle hospital and he’d never ever imagined he would ever go to a muggle hospital because as a wizard there was simply no need to do so, but now that he is going he is glad that there had been someone to explain the system to him, because knowing himself he would have probably made a major jerk out of himself.

The building is as big as Pansy has said it would be and he goes inside through the biggest door as she has told him to and then he goes to the front desk just as she has said he should.

The muggle behind the desk is wearing a black lady suit and smiles at him in a friendly manner as he approaches her.

“I’m looking for Drac—“ he catches himself before he finishes, “Doctor Draco Malfoy.”

She checks a roster and nods, “his office is on paediatrics. You can take the elevator to the second floor,” she points him in the direction of the elevators and the staircase.

He takes the stairs just because he doesn’t want to have to wait with all the muggles for the elevator to get down and then he gets a little nervous as he heads over to the nurse’s station – which he only recognises because Pansy has told him there would be mostly woman and they would be wearing white straight pipe pants with white coats on top of them – and he unconsciously hugs the succulent closer to his chest.

The woman closest to him looks at his face and then at his clothes and then stares at the succulent unabashedly and Ron feels his cheeks redden with embarrassment. He clears his throat and when the nurse meets his eyes, smiles.

“I’m here for Doctor Malfoy, I’m his friend, I brought him lunch,” it’s not a complete lie and he holds up the Tupperware to prove it – it’s not necessary however, as the nurses all make some noise at the name.

“Of course dear! His break started five minutes ago,” the nurse steps out of the little glass office, waving him over, “he’s probably with the kids again.”

He hears the other woman talk excitedly even after he’s left and hopes they’re not drawing any conclusions – not that he would mind, but he’s quite sure Draco would be scandalised – as he follows the nurse. She leads him down a corridor, and into a big playroom – there’s about a dozen kids there, in pink hospital gowns with Draco at the midst of them, playing with a toy train animatedly.

He’s wearing a black suit today, and if Ron had not known the man worked there as a doctor, he would have never guessed. The kids all seem to absolutely adore him, and he laughs with them as they flock around him, lost in their games.

The nurse enters the room to get him and Ron feels remarkably self-conscious when Draco is alerted of his presence and looks up at him – but the blond just smiles kindly and nods his head and even as a small girl tugs at his sleeve just keeps smiling.

He comes out to meet Ron under great protest from the children and Ron gets a lot of dirty looks from them as Draco thanks the nurse and offers to take Ron to his office. They don’t say anything even as the nurse waves them goodbye and Draco leads him down the hall and it’s not exactly awkward but it’s something because this is where Draco works now and Ron brought his succulent there.

His office is not too big – there’s a white desk and a couple of comfortable chairs, white closets behind his desk and a couple of plants by the window. It’s very serene and sober, and Ron can tell Draco doesn’t spend much time there – besides the plants there is no personal touch to the space, nothing that lets people know that it is Draco’s.

Amidst it all Draco is standing with his suit jacket undone and his hair slightly ruffled and there’s a smirk hiding in the corner of his mouth as he studies Ron.

“So,” he says it in a very light tone and Ron is suddenly feeling really stupid because he’s still wearing the clothes he’s slept in and he didn’t comb his hair that morning and Draco is just beaming, “did you think I was missing my succulent?”

Ron looks down at the pink leafs and back up and he pouts slightly as he answers: “I thought I should bring you flowers,” because it had seemed like the right thing to do at the time, really.

“Ronald…” Draco is smiling so wide his teeth are showing and Ron isn’t sure why but maybe he’s done something right after all, “succulents are plants…”

Or maybe not.

He’s not sure what to say now and all of a sudden he feels quite terrible and the sick feeling to his stomach is back because he hadn’t know – he had thought that maybe “losing a patient” was muggle-lingo for wandering off and it was so fucking stupid, in retrospect, because he just should have asked except Draco had looked so sad and perhaps part of him hadn’t wanted to know and that was worse. Because first and foremost he is a Gryffindor, and they don’t do cowardice.

So he swallows his sickness and his guilt and he says very clearly: “I didn’t understand, before, when you said you lost a patient, and I was horrible about it and I am so sorry.”

Draco doesn’t say anything at first and he looks as if maybe he’s misunderstood Ron except he seems to realise he hasn’t and he looks a little pained with it. His eyes are unrelenting steel and his one hand fidgets with the hem of jacket and Ron thinks his lips tremble on his next inhale.

“I don’t know what to say,” Draco admits eventually, eyes lowering to the floor in shame – as if perhaps he had been off his rockers drunk last time they spoke and he had never meant to share such a private thing with Ron.

“That’s fine,” Ron shrugs his shoulders, because really, it is, “You should take care of yourself now. Maybe take a couple of days off? Draco… I know you’re a really good listener and I’m probably rubbish at it, but if there’s something you want to say, I’ll listen. Is that okay?”

He feels kind of as if he’s handling a live animal and he’s really happy for that one summer Charlie drank too much firewhisky and spent most of the night explaining to Ron how best to soothe a distressed dragon – always proceed with caution – and it works, too, because Draco takes a step closer, and then another, and then they’re close enough for Ron to reach out and take Draco’s hand, but he doesn’t.

“I’d like that,” Draco says instead, and he takes his succulent from Ron’s arms, “some other time. When I don’t have to operate on a nine-year-old in a couple of hours.”

“Sure,” Ron smiles now, because he no longer feels sick and Draco’s hands look really pretty as they set the plant next to the other one on the windowsill, “shall we have lunch?”

He holds out the Tupperware and Draco just nods gratefully. He produces some plates and cutlery from one of the closets behind his desk, and Ron divides the salad and uses the tip of his wand to bring the fritters back to temperature.

Draco rummages around his briefcase and produces his purse, watching Ron fuss to create a pretty-looking plate of food as he asks: “would you like a soda? There’s a vending machine down the hall.”

Before Ron can answer however, a handsome brunette appears in the doorway – he’s wearing a white lab coat that accentuates his build and his hair is wavy and frames his face – and it takes just one look at the way the guy looks at Draco for Ron to know that he just absolutely loathes the guy. Really.

“Draco, I was hoping you were on break,” the man casually leans against the frame, ignoring Ron’s presence entirely as he tucks his hands into his pockets, “we should have lunch.”

The blond’s smile is tight as he answers, “I already have a lunch date,” and then with a nod he leaves his office and leaves Ron to set the dishes on the side of his desk that has two chairs and he tries his hardest to ignore the other man but it’s hard.

Because he’s handsome and likes Draco.

“Listen,” the brunet pushes himself off the frame and steps into the room, forcing Ron to look up at him as he walks in as if he owns the place – he’s an inch taller, but Ron is not intimidated, “I’ve been working with Draco for months. I don’t know who you are,” his look speaks of pure disdain, eyes turned to slits, “but I’ve got dibs.”

And Ron feels really stupid for wearing his sleep clothes and he feels stupid for not combing through his hair but nevertheless he straightens himself to his full length and even as his ears heat in anger he manages to snarl: “Draco is not some item you get to call dibs on. He gets to say no to whatever the fuck he likes.”

He knows he probably shouldn’t swear but then they’re all adults, too, so swearing should be fine. The man just kind of stares at him with his eyes blazing and Ron is pretty sure the guy wants to hurt him but then he also just doesn’t care. He clamps onto his wand where he’s hiding it behind his back and he feels as if the dragon he so carefully calmed inside of Draco is roaring in his own chest now, he is so angry.

“I’m pretty sure sloppy is not his type,” the brunet bites back – and now, Ron knows it’s meant as a jibe at his poor dress-choice, and he knows it’s supposed to hurt him but Ron also knows that Draco likes things a little sloppy so he doesn’t feel too insulted about it at all.

About the whole tone of this guy standing in front of him telling him what Draco likes and dislikes – now that is a thing that sets him off.

I’m sorry,” he says very sarcastically, “is your name Draco Malfoy? What makes you think you get to tell him what his type is?” and he wants to kind of go on a rant about it too, but his face is already getting red and the guy is looking at him as if he’s speaking a foreign language and he’s not sure if muggles just have really weird views about what relationships should be like and so he just snaps his mouth shuts and reminds himself to ask Hermione about it later.

Before the other man can say anything else Draco appears in the doorway and then pauses momentarily, “you’re still here?” he frowns at the brunet, and then his eyes meet Ron’s, “I brought you a cherry soda, I hope that’s alright.”

Ron wants to kiss his face.

The blond looks over at the other doctor again, and this time the man seems to get the hint and he retreats, giving a nod to Draco as he leaves. As Draco opens up the can and fills one of the cups, Ron goes to close the door and then when he turns around that smile is still on the blond’s face and he’s holding out a cup of soda, the room filling with the fragrance.

And he wants to kiss his stupid face so he does – he crowds into Draco’s space and puts both hands on the marble cheeks and he kisses him very softly, very much in the moment and he wants to say a million things and he hopes a kiss will do, too. When he pulls back there’s this look of childlike-wonder on the other’s face – as if unsure of what just took place – so Ron just presses another peck to his lips and takes the cup from his hands.

Draco doesn’t ponder the move for too long, and they eat lunch with playful banter and light spirits and Ron wonders what it feels like to be in love, and if this is it.

 


 

Chapter Text

Number nine: Pickled Cucumbers

He takes Cassiopeia to a fancy hamburger place downtown after his last Quidditch match of his last Quidditch season and she is wearing a really fancy dress with red glitters and an open back and he enjoys watching her eat her hamburger with both hands and dapping at her red mouth with a napkin and winking over at him while doing it. Neither of them grew up in a wealthy family and they do so enjoy playing rich.

Cassiopeia talks about how there’s a new secretary at her office that is cute, and then about how Pansy is more interesting and then Ron just can’t keep his mouth shut.

“I just fucking hate guys like that!” he bites angrily in his burger, and Cassiopeia gives him an encouraging look – it isn’t the first time he curses the burly brunette that is Draco’s colleague, and it won’t be the last time, either, “like the fuck?!” he is louder than he should be, but he’s also wearing a four-piece suit and looks like money, so the waiter just passes by their table without insisting he keeps his voice down, “People can make their own choices and have their own preferences! Like… you don’t own the people you are interested in Doctor Dickhead!”

Cassiopeia ends up laughing so bad she nearly chokes on her burger and that in turn makes Ron laugh too and although the issue is still a big issue the world seems a little brighter in the face of it. He tells Cassiopeia about how jealous he feels and how stupid it is, because Draco Malfoy is probably not interested in dating and for some reason they just kind of have sex every now and then.

He tells about how he had kissed him square on his face in his office and how nice it has been and how he’s worried because he’s not sure if he’s in love. Can you be in love with someone you don’t know?

“That’s hardly fair,” Cassiopeia rolls her eyes, “when have you ever dated anyone you really knew?” she gives him a schoolteacher look and Ron wants to pout because she’s making an excellent point which isn’t fair – they’ve had drinks, neither of them should be making perfect points right now, “I would argue you know Draco much better than anyone else you’ve dated.”

“Except Draco doesn’t want to date,” Ron does pout now – the restaurant’s pickled cucumber is not as good as he expected it to be and his glass of wine is already empty.

“You haven’t even asked him,” Cassiopeia sounds as if she wants to hit him on the head with something heavy – a common feeling she harbours for him, “you don’t have to rush. You can just take it slow.”

She tells him how she and Pansy have agreed to not date until they’ve known each other for half a year because they both have really horrible track records for relationships and right now all they want is a good orgasm every now and then anyway.

“You’re so practical,” Ron wants to sound like he’s scolding but he’s actually just envious – it never ceases to surprise him how Cassiopeia is one-hundred percent open and honest in all things, even if there is a risk of getting her heart broken or her ego trampled on.

“That’s how I like my orgasms, prim and practical,” she winks again and this time Ron has to laugh, and they spend the rest of the night talking about how pretty Pansy is when she’s naked, or half-undressed, or fully dressed with no knickers on, and it kind of slips from Ron’s mind for a moment.

He thinks about it again that same night when he’s re-arranging the pictures on his dresser to add one of the four of them; a selfie Cassiopeia made of all of them gathered around the kitchen island, around an entire array of different dishes and full wine glasses and broad smiles. Picture Draco looks a little affected, his cheeks pink with alcohol, and his hand is stroking picture Ron’s cheek and it’s cute.

And maybe he wants to be cute with Draco Malfoy. And maybe he doesn’t. But for some reason, making a decision as soon as possible seems like a really important thing to do – and he can’t for the life of him figure out why.

Instead of going to bed, he decides to make pickled cucumbers, and he spends a really stupid amount of time perfecting the sweet to sour ratio. While he’s working he doesn’t think about anything else, his mind is free of all things none-food related. He realises the kitchen is his space, and maybe Draco had been right, because he’s not sure if he’d want to share the kitchen with anyone else, really.

He crawls to bed satisfied that he will be able to eat delicious pickles tomorrow and he falls asleep dreaming about them.

And he wakes up, thinking about them, too, wondering how they’d turned out and if the overnight soak would have been long enough to infuse all the flavours. He opens his door to go and check but before he can even take a step outside into the hallway Draco is running towards him – his cheeks are pink with excitement, and he’s still wearing his pyjamas. They are thick cotton this time, and a pastel purple colour, the trousers reaching his ankles.

“There you are!” he sounds slightly out of breath and Ron just freezes because Draco is smiling and radiating with it from head to toe, “You made pickled cucumbers?!”

Ron is not sure if maybe Draco is using some kind of code-language, but he did make the pickled cucumbers so he can’t not nod, so then when he nods suddenly he has an armful of Draco and the boy is kissing him very roughly, urgently, pressing into his lips and introducing his tongue and…

He tastes kind of sweet, and kind of sour too.

There isn’t any time to draw conclusions because Draco is closing the door behind them and stripping off his sleep-shirt and he has these really pink faded marks on his chest and every time Ron sees them he just kind of has to still – except then he’s kissing them and they’re in his mouth and he can’t stop and the blond makes a sound and then he definitely doesn’t want to stop.

It takes no time to get naked and then Ron is already hard because Draco, honestly, and it’s the first time he sees Draco Malfoy stumble as the boy steps out of his trousers clumsily. His ass is so pretty that he forgets to laugh at the sight of his fumbling.

There’s something in the way Draco moves that makes it seem like he owns the space – even as he gets onto the bed, flat on his stomach and then reaches out to prop a pillow under his hips, it’s graceful, as if he knows exactly where everything is because all of this is his.

And Ron doesn’t mind – not when Draco is looking at him over his shoulder, eyes dark and daring, and then there’s just the slight spread of his legs, an open invitation and Ron is pretty sure his brain is toast.

He gets the rubbers from his bedside table and as he strokes himself to full hardness and fumbles with the lube Draco continues watching him, hungry. He realises they shouldn’t rush but then he also finds it really hard not to with those grey storms following his every move – he clumsily drips some of the lube down Draco’s crack and then follows it with his fingers an it’s really hot, and when he introduces the first digit his body is so pliant and relaxed and it’s too arousing.

Draco’s body shudders, and then his voice shudders too, as he moans, and Ron quickly adds a second finger and twists them and there’s another moan and on the third finger there is resistance but Draco is still moaning so he decides to go for it.

Draco moves so that he can support his weight on his elbows and cant his hips and Ron holds him there gently, using his free hand to guide himself where Draco wants him most. It’s tight but not painful and when he pushes in first a sigh falls from the pink lips and he knows it’s okay, so he pushes a little deeper and then pulls out and then pushes in a little deeper again.

Soon there’s a rhythm, and the pale hips buck to meet his intrusion and Draco is biting his pink lip and trying to hush his own sounds and his eyes are dark, brows knit together in concentration as he moves his body to meet Ron’s thrusts.

Ron’s knuckles are white where they’re gripping into Draco’s hip but he can’t help it because he’s thinking about pickles and he is still too close. He’s not sure why, but he feels too overwhelmed and it makes him sloppy, and his thrusts are hard, the headboard swaying and meeting the wall but he is beyond caring – all he cares about is how Draco is spreading his legs to meet him deeper and how pink his buttocks are under the attention and how his scars spread out on his flanks and how pretty his spine is as it curves in his ecstasy and his eyes, how they won’t stop meeting his own and how lost he is but also not.

He’s surprised with it when the blond meets his end – there’s a sudden tension in his back as it curves into a perfect arch and he literally sobs and then goes stiff, his whole body tense and Ron feels it around his cock too and he can barely utter a sound of surprise and then he’s coming too, hard and long, slumping over the pale back.

Draco’s eyes finally slip shut, but only for a second and then when they meet his own again they are so bright. He does a little shuffle with his shoulders into Ron’s chest as if to cuddle into him closer and they both laugh, so hard Ron’s ribs start hurting and he rolls off the smaller body with some hesitance. He ties the rubber off and Draco uses his wand to clean them both and then they lay on their back and stare at the ceiling.

“So…” Ron eventually finds his voice again, and when he glances over the blond’s chest is heaving beautifully, “I take it you like pickles.”

“Don’t even joke about that,” Draco grins at him, uprightly happy and so pretty Ron feels it bouncing around his chest, “they are absolutely delicious, you’re like the Merlin of cookery or something I was just… wauw,” he’s always least-eloquent after sex but Ron thinks it best not to point it out, so he lets Draco turn over to his side, pale chest pressed into his flank and then Draco is kissing him along his neck, “I’m pretty sure you left bruises. I had your hickeys on my ass days later last time,” he’s cheeky, Ron can feel his canines against his collarbone, “I—shit!”

And then just like that they’re gone and Draco jumps from the bed.

“I have a shift at Saint Mungo’s today!” he runs around gathering his clothes and Ron just looks at him – as much as he doesn’t want him to leave, it’s also very nice to have his body put so nicely on display for him.

Before leaving he presses another kiss to Ron’s neck and then he winks – Ron knows he’s smiling in a really stupid way, but he can’t help it. He stays in bed for most of the morning so he misses how handsome Draco looks in his emerald robes and also the way he steals two more pieces from the pickled-cucumber-jar before leaving.

When he does eventually drag his ass out of bed however, he decides to send an owl to Draco at Saint Mungo’s with some pickles – just for the hell of it – and then in the evening when the blond gets home obscenely late they have sex again and it’s perfect.

Afterwards they cuddle and just when Ron is dozing off the blond complains about missing his canopy and he presses these really lazy lingering kisses all the way down his sternum and then leaves one really soft one against Ron’s cheek before he leaves again too. And Ron tries to tell himself it’s okay, but actually it just makes him really stupidly sad.

 


 

Chapter Text

Number ten: Fight or Flight

As a consequence he wakes up obscenely early the next morning with a rather uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. He can’t place it – it’s just a kind of dull feeling, and when he twists in his sheets he realises the pillow next to his own smells like Draco and he thinks that’s it.

On the dresser the picture of his family is standing proud but the twins are shaking their heads at him and Bill and Charlie are all over the place, trying to tell him something with waving hands and rolls of their eyes. The clock reads 5 thirty AM and he wants to brain himself against the bedpost, but instead he gets out of bed and pulls a black-and-white cotton robe over his body and goes into the kitchen.

He doesn’t know what to cook. It has never happened to him before.

He makes a pot of fresh coffee and then checks the fridge – he doesn’t get any ideas. He is too lazy to check his phone – still on his bedside table – and when he flips through his recipe books he just finds himself staring at the pictures instead of thinking of how he will start preparing his chosen dish.

It’s almost six when there’s an almost imperceptible knock on the front door, and he frowns to himself before padding over to open it.

To his surprise it is Draco’s aunt, and her grandson, Teddy. Andromeda looks tired, as she usually does when Ron sees her, but she is smiling, albeit confused. Teddy, seven years old and ever-enthusiastic is wearing a black leotard and white tights, the jacket he’s wearing on top barely hiding his outfit.

“Oh Ronald, is this—“ Andromeda leans back to re-read the small name-plaque next to the door – it reads Malfoy – she frowns, “I’m looking for Draco.”

“Are you and Draco having a sleepover?” Teddy’s hair is light brown now, like his grandmother’s, but when he looks at Ron, it flashes bright red suddenly – Ron knows he can’t control it yet, but it’s a funny sight nonetheless.

He flusters at the remark though, bumbling to explain, “oh no! No, I mean… Draco was looking for new roommates and I was looking for a new apartment. Cassiopeia made the arrangements.”

Andromeda looks compassionate – well-aware that not everything is peachy between the Malfoys and the Weasleys – and then Teddy’s eyes widen and he bolts inside the room, passing Ron by.

“Draco!” it’s all an excited screech as Draco exits his room – he’s wearing really adorable cotton shorts and a t-shirt that rides up his tummy and even though Teddy must have surprised him, he catches the weight of the boy easily.

“I’m sorry to wake you Draco,” Andromeda smiles at the tired blond as he lifts the child in his arms – and Teddy goes from ginger to ashen blond in a second, “he wanted to have breakfast with you before ballet.”

“Can you make the bear-pancakes Draco?” the little boy bounces around in Draco’s arms excitedly and has to be put back on the floor before he drags them both down.

“He’s a little shy about ballet,” Andromeda shares with Ron in a whisper, “he’s the only boy. He hasn’t told anyone, but Draco always tries to take him or visit him during class.”

And that doesn’t really sound like a thing Hogwarts-Draco-Malfoy would do, but for present-day-Draco-Malfoy, it doesn’t surprise Ron in the least.

Andromeda and Draco make some small talk while Teddy runs over to the kitchen island and starts to rummage through the pots and pans to look for the right frying pan. When Draco closes the door and comes over to the where the now-blond is pillaging the cupboards, much to Ron’s distress, he gets down to the boy’s level, grinning, “maybe if you ask Ronald nicely, he’ll make your pancakes today.”

“You can cook?” Teddy looks absolutely shocked wide eyes turning on Ron – they are brown today, but Ron knew they could turn any colour of the rainbow.

“Oh yes, Ronald is the best cook!” Draco nods avidly when Teddy turns his eyes on him, and the boy gasps: “better than you?”

“Definitely,” there’s no hesitation and Ron feels his ears burn in embarrassment at the praise.

“But can he make bear-shaped pancakes?” Teddy asks sceptically.

“Well,” both Draco and Teddy look over at Ron where’s he’s fussing over the mess the boy made in his well-organised pan-stack, “can you?”

Ron rolls his eyes at the childish teasing because honestly, he makes Draco coq-au-vin, he does not deserve to have his skills so blatantly questioned.

Can I?!” he huffs – perhaps he too, is childish – and then sets to work while Draco and Teddy place themselves on the high chairs by the kitchen island.

Draco watches him start his batter by cracking the eggs, but Teddy is poking at the blond’s revealed stomach, begging for attention.

“Can I pick your piercing today?” Teddy asks as Ron cracks the eggs in his mixing bowl, poking the pale stomach one more time for good measure.

“Sure, if you’d like,” he kisses the top of Teddy’s head as the boy hops off his chair, running to Draco’s bedroom in excitement.

Ron tries not to get too distracted but it’s hard when he remembers what Draco had looked like on that picture on his closet wall and the realisation that he may be about to find out what it looks like in real life. Draco misinterprets his look of anticipation for one of confusion and explains that he usually takes it out and hasn’t actually worn it in a couple of months, but that Teddy is obsessed with checking out all his jewellery and he finds it very hard to deny the boy anything.

It’s funny how similar to Harry he is in that regard but Ron thinks it best not to mention it so instead he regards the two of them in interest as Teddy comes bouncing back in the room and then unscrews the piercing so Draco can put it in. He tries not to burn the pancakes but then suddenly he wants to always be looking at that marble stomach, where the golden rod with white tear-shaped diamond Teddy has chosen is glittering in the light.

He finds himself kind of fantasizing about it over breakfast – what it would taste like in his mouth, how it would feel pressed into his own stomach – and he has to almost burn his hand before he is able to focus on the task at hand. Teddy is constantly trying to crawl into Draco’s lap and then deciding against it and he talks so avidly with Ron about what he did last class – it’s obvious to Ron that although he has never realised before, the grandnephews are very close to one another, and Teddy trusts the older blond implicitly.

Teddy asks if Draco will wear his leotard to practice too and he’s using these really adorable puppy-dog eyes that remind Ron of Sirius – not Remus, which is weird, really, but then he sees Sirius Black in places he never expects to see him, which is befitting of the man and his character – and Draco looks absolutely immune to the adorableness and says “okay,” nonetheless.

It’s a remarkable feat, Ron thinks, how Teddy Lupin can turn even the ever-on-his-toes-all-walls-up Draco Malfoy into a sap – because there is no hardness in his eyes, and there is not the slightest caution as he teases the boy. The walls – present even in the way that he hesitates before speaking to Ron – have gone and crumbled, nothing left but a sad bunch of bricks in a wasteland.

As Draco goes into his bedroom to change, Ron piles some chocolate-chip pancakes onto a plate for the small blond, curious brown eyes turned on him now. All the pancakes are perfectly bear-shaped, and the boy looks infinitely pleased.

“So, you and Draco are really good friends,” Ron observes the way the boy starts devouring his breakfast, nodding avidly.

“I know you and Harry didn’t use to like him,” Teddy says through his mouthful, “grandma says parental pressure is stronger than imperius.”

He is slightly taken aback by the statement, if only because in all this time he has somehow forgotten that Andromeda is Draco’s mother’s sister and if anyone knows about parental pressure it’s probably her – except that she’s also the one to resist it, strongly, and he is surprised, perhaps not at her kindness but at her understanding of those who were not as successful in their resistance.

“Draco is a good man,” Ron says, because he’s not sure what else he can say – he believes it too, and he feels it, in his chest, where his heart skips a beat as he says it out loud, “everyone makes mistakes sometimes.”

Teddy’s smiles with all his teeth showing, browned with chocolate and it’s too funny, Ron lets out a surprised laugh and then laughs a little harder as the boy blinks at him in confusion. It’s adorable and Ron decides to offer him some chocolate sauce to go with his pancakes and Teddy still looks puzzled but he nods his head avidly yes and then Ron sits next to him and watches him eat.

When Draco comes back it’s not funny – like Ron thinks it might have been – because there’s nothing actually remotely amusing about realising that he is lost, drowning, paddling his feet desperately because Draco is long and slender and his wrists are so pretty and there is just not an ungraceful bone in his body, he moves with such fluidity and of course he used to do ballet – how could Ron have not known that.

And it’s not weird to see him wearing a leotard and tights, either, it’s just kind of enticing in this way that Ron finds it hard to look away. And his hair is really pretty and tangled today and he’s putting on a bomber jacket and not meeting Ron’s eyes and Ron thinks something clicks because—

Because he’s trying not to show it in front of Teddy but maybe he feels a little out-of-place and he’s never seen Draco Malfoy in his own place, out-of-place before. So while Teddy finishes the last of his pancakes he runs back to his own bedroom and quickly changes into jeans and a clean shirt and when he comes back Draco is just tying his shoes.

Both blonds look up at him with some sort of astonishment but he just grins, shrugging his shoulders, “can’t miss a chance of seeing you boys dance!”

He can tell Draco is suppressing the urge to roll his eyes at him but he doesn’t and then Teddy is chattering about Quidditch and linking his arm into Ron’s and it’s okay.

They walk to the dance class which is just two blocks away and there’s only moms there when they arrive who all dotingly refer to Draco as “Doctor Malfoy” and insist on pressing kisses to his cheek in greeting.

As a twenty-seven year old man it’s a little strange to be sitting between all these middle-aged woman watching a whole bunch of girls and one boy and one man do exercises on the bar but he doesn’t feel like it’s weird, because Teddy is grinning so wide, so proud to be sharing this moment and it just kind of swells in his chest and he can’t do anything but stare in awe.

He takes a ton of pictures with his phone camera when he thinks Draco can’t see him and he loves how Teddy is making faces at him while his body bends into the most gracious of curves as he does a jump and Ron has to repress the urge to clap in amazement.

After class Teddy chats with the other girls excitedly and Ron gets invited to three different house parties to which all he can do is smile and nod while Draco is smirking at him from across the room – he is enjoying his torment, Ron is sure of it.

On their way back Teddy demands they both hold his hand and he walks in between the two of them, his hair still shockingly white but his eyes bright blue now and it’s endearing – Ron feels things he hasn’t felt in a long time, a passion fighting in his chest to keep these boys close to him and safe.

As it turns out – he can’t.

They turn a corner, into a secluded park area which they only need to cross to reach their apartment on the other side. One moment he’s smiling over at Draco and the man’s hair glitters in the morning sun and then next there is an abundance of shouting and then ringing as his head connects with pavement.

There’s hateful slurs being shouted and something connects with his side and it hurts and Teddy is crying for Draco but he can’t hear the blond now. His face scrapes over the ground as he gets pulled backwards and then pushed forward again and someone pulls his head back and then Draco finally comes into view and—

There’s a guy probably twice his size sitting on Draco’s chest and he spits into the blond’s face there’s another guy kicking at his side and Ron is livid but also panicking – because this doesn’t happen to him, he does not get cornered and he does not get caught off guard. He wants to reach for his wand in the pockets of his jeans but someone strong is holding his arms behind his back and his shoulders ache. Draco’s face is bloody and there is this incredible anger that bubbles up in his throat and when the guy’s fist connects with Draco’s jaw he thinks he might burn to a crisp because there’s only this rage fuelling his actions.

And he wishes that is enough too – but he feels powerless instead, reminded of how useless he is without his wand and he still struggles to comprehend that this is a thing actually happening to them, here, now.

Instead of pondering about it he struggles against the men at his back and immediately gets slammed back into the pavement – his vision blurs and Teddy screams Draco’s name again and Ron’s body gets lifted and pushed into the floor again and then—

Everything goes quiet.

For a moment Ron just sees grey cobble stone and all he can hear is the blood in his veins and it’s ringing in his ears, thumping against his brain and there’s nothing else – he wonders if he’s going to pass out, and thinks how stupid it is that ten years ago he would have gotten up and brushed himself off by now.

When he blinks the world returns and he notices the weight off his back has been lifted – when he turns to face Draco the blond is looking a mess, blood all over his face and running down into his hair but he’s steadily making his way out from under the frozen body of the man who has been assaulting him.

It takes a moment for his brain to process the fact that all of their muggle opponents have been frozen – the blond however does not linger on the fact and as soon as he’s managed to get out from under the man, he stumbles over to where two men had been holding Teddy – they too stand stock-still now, their eyes madly dashing about the place. Teddy is crying, tears streaming down his face, but he is uninjured, and upon realising the men have been bound perfectly by Draco’s non-verbal spell, he hunches his shoulders out of their grasps and runs to meet Draco halfway.

He presses his tear-stained face into Draco’s hip, just buries it there and Draco lets him, cups his head in his hands and runs his fingers through his hair and Ron feels this fondness, even as he lies there bleeding from his knees and elbows and possibly the side of his head, he thinks Draco Malfoy saved my life and Draco Malfoy is a pudding and he’s not sure which of the two is more right.

“Ron,” and he sounds so heartbroken too, as he hauls Teddy over and then crouches down in front of him, with blood dripping from his nose, his eyes are stern but his lips are quivering.

Teddy’s eyes are magnificently blue when they meet Ron’s and he is still crying even as he helps Draco push the body-bound muggle off Ron and then helps him get to his feet. His side is burning and he’s pretty sure he’s broken a rib because even just breathing hurts, but Draco is smiling at Teddy and humming, “it’s okay, you’re safe, you’re okay, I’m here,” and he feels like he cannot be weak right now because Draco needs him to be strong, too.

So he smiles through the pain and pulls both boys into a hug – and his side stings but he ignores it – and says, no uncertainty, “don’t worry, I’ll fix it.”

He can tell Teddy is scared for other reasons as he looks from the blond to the muggles and back and he realises that Draco Malfoy former-death-eater just cursed a bunch of muggles and it’s silly because he knows that if Harry had done the exact same thing he would have been received as a hero but there’s an ugly tattoo hidden under the pretty flowers on Draco’s forearm that gives an ulterior motive to his actions and he knows there will be plenty of Aurors more than ready to jump to conclusions.

So instead of sending a letter as he supposes he usually would have done after being jumped in a street – not something that has happened to him before but there’s a first for everything – he grits his teeth at the pain coursing through his body and finds his wallet. In it, is the magical coin Hermione has given them in fifth year, and the three of them still use it to this day – it is an old wound, a fear that has never completely healed, this idea that even as they chatter with their new friends happily they should be alert and stay grounded. Evil lurks in the in-between spaces, and it is something they will never forget – except apparently, Ron has never learned that evil lurks in muggle neighbourhoods, too.

Harry appears only seconds later and he looks a little annoyed first – he would, because he is Harry Potter prime auror now and Ron can’t just keep using the coin to lure him over and have drinks which in all honesty happened only like three times – and his robes are swishing around his body and before he can even properly process what has happened Teddy is screaming at him: “you can’t hurt him! He saved us!” protectively using his tiny body to try and hide Draco behind him.

Harry looks surprised but not completely guiltless and Ron knows that he too perhaps, has jumped to a conclusion far from the truth. Upon seeing his godson’s distress however, his shoulders kind of relax and he throws up his hands in a sign of surrender, “Teddy it’s alright, I’ll fix it, okay?”

He throws Ron a worried look, his voice kind as he urges, “get to the flat, I’ll be by soon.”

Ron doesn’t doubt him for a second so he just takes Draco’s hand and holds Teddy tight and then apparates them out of there – like he should have done, right from the very damned start.

***

Chapter Text

Number eleven: the Afterglow

Draco’s nose is still bleeding and Teddy can’t stop sobbing. They stand in the middle of their kitchen space and just kind of stare at each other while the young boy presses his face into Draco’s lap, desperately trying to hide in some sense of comfort.

He gets down on his knees, right in front of Teddy, and then he kind of strokes through the boy’s hair until he calms slightly, his sobs eventually subsiding. He presses kisses into Teddy’s forehead and whispers, “you were so brave. You’re safe now Teddy, it will be alright. You are such a brave boy,” repeats it like a mantra, and when he is no longer crying, just staring with wide eyes, Draco smiles and he continues, “it’s okay Teddy. We’re here for you. You were so brave. Why don’t you go change into your comfy clothes now?”

The boy nods his head, and then he runs from the room as if nothing has happened – as if life is fine, and Ron watches him go with something of awe because he doesn’t believe life is very fine for him right now, and the idea that there’s people going to such lengths to make them feel shitty about their sexuality strikes him hard and gives him a sense that maybe nothing will ever be fine again.

Except that it’s just a fleeting thought in a moment and then he realises Draco is still down on his knees, head bent with his hands in his lap and suddenly it feels as if they’re both lost and he should try to fix that. For a moment he just kind of stands there and watches as Draco’s pale fingers twitch and then he kind of sags to the floor in front of him, taking his hands into his own.

Draco’s hair is matted against his forehead in a rather pathetic manner, Ron thinks, but he doesn’t comment because he’s pretty sure the blond is crying, fat tears rolling down his cheeks soundlessly. His nose is bloody and crooked and it looks awful against the whiteness of his skin, and there’s bruising underneath his eyes. He’s not looking up, just staring at his shuddering knuckles in Ron’s tan hands.

He takes the shivering digits and puts them in his own lap and then he cups the pale bloodied face and strokes his thumbs over the prominent cheekbones gently, urging him to look up. When their eyes finally meet there’s a grey stone wall and Ron thinks his heart breaks a little bit because he’s never seen Draco cry before, but there’s tears mingling with the blood and his fingers continue to shake something terrible against Ron’s jeans.

And yet he feels grateful for this sobbing man in front of him – so grateful and he’s not sure how to tell him, you saved my life doesn’t quite feel like the exact emotion he wants to convey so instead he uses his hands to bring Draco’s face closer and closer and closer until he can count all the tears stuck to his lashes and until the grey sparkles with white anticipation and until he can brush his lips insistently into the plush pink ones and he tastes copper and he knows Draco’s face is sore but his mouth is hot and demanding in its defeat.

When they part a shudder runs through Draco’s lithe frame and he exhales very patiently, his eyes pressed shut tightly. His nose is still bleeding and now Ron can feel it sticky and caked to his own face too, where they had met, and it should be gross but this is Draco Malfoy, boy-turned-ferret made to hide in his friend’s trousers, and nothing can be grosser than that imagery, Ron is sure.

There’s a few deep breaths and Ron thinks he’s trying to stop his own crying but then when his eyes open again he realises he’s stopped quite some time ago already. How long did they kiss for? Millennia?

“Ronald,” now he knows he’s in trouble because Draco very rarely calls him Ronald to his face, and he’s not sure if he’s ready for any type of scrutiny from the blond – but then, Draco says, “I need you to fix my nose.”

He sounds embarrassed and Ron knows he is because he’s a professional healer – he’s not supposed to ask others for help when it comes to healing – but then his face is also just a very delicate subject and he doesn’t want to make any stupid mistakes on fixing his own. Except that Ron is actually rubbish at healing spells and Draco, blinded and with only none-verbal magic, would probably still do a better job than him.

He wants to say this too, so he goes to open his mouth and object but Draco stops him and uses his shaking fingers to grasp at Ron’s shirt and he says quietly, “I trust you,” and then there’s nothing he can say to protest to that.

So he fishes his wand from his pockets and lets Draco close his eyes in quiet anticipation and he feels Draco’s knuckles where they’re holding onto him.

“Episkey,” it sounds harsh in the quiet kitchen and Draco’s eyelids flutter uncomfortably as he feels his nose rearrange itself and it must hurt because he’s gripping onto Ron pretty damn tightly.

Ron isn’t sure if he’s just gotten better at magic – despite the fact that he’s using much less of it these days – or if Draco’s infallible trust in him has made him excel, but his magic fixes the pointed nose perfectly back to its old self and he feels the grip the blond has on him loosen slightly.

Thank you,” it’s a mere whimper and then they’re kissing again, Draco pushing up into him and his whole body warming with the sensation of it, coppery and underlying sweetness where he knows the boy is hiding now, “thank you.”

He shakes his head, feels stupid and then kisses Draco again, firmly this time. Their foreheads bump together and he keeps his eyes on the grey one’s as he speaks.

“Draco you saved my life,” he wants it to be stated in no uncertain terms because that’s exactly what happened, “you are the bravest man I know.”

He looks tired and ten years older but he manages a smile, his voice laced with fatigue as he tries to tease, “you’re forgetting Potter and Longbottom and…”

“Yeah, but brave Gryffindors are a dime a dozen, brave Slytherins are few and far between,” equally teasing, their hands meet, brushing together and then Ron holds onto the blond, “I can never thank you enough.”

Draco doesn’t say anything but then there’s nothing he can say. They get off the ground and Draco washes his face by the sink, slowly and carefully as his head still appears to be sore. He watches Ron sit down gingerly, eyes ever-calculating except this time Ron knows he is trying to assess the damage their attackers did.

He comes over to wipe away the blood from his face too, Draco’s blood, and then Teddy comes back inside the room. He is no longer crying, all signs of weakness gone, and he’s wearing the same pyjamas Draco had been wearing a couple of weeks ago, black with little fluorescent planets and galaxies.

Under his arms he has a plush unicorn and what looks like a mediwitch kit. He gets a kiss pressed to his head as a manner of thanks, and then hops onto the chair next to Ron’s, explaining happily, “Draco knows the reparo for people.”

Ron knows he means it and he knows it’s true but he still smiles like it’s funny because Teddy is making a face as Draco opens up the kit and the strong smells of potions and magical bandages reaches their noses and the boy is so bright, even in the aftermath of such a horrible event, it’s something worth smiling about.

Teddy watches as Draco helps Ron out of his shirt and then he makes sympathetic noises as Draco treats his torso with a potion – he is just stating his diagnosis, two broken ribs, when Harry comes in through the front door, looking a little awkward and out of place.

They don’t talk for a while, as Harry watches Draco prepare special bandages with a potion and then wraps them gently around the inflicted area. It hurts when Ron breathes, and all in all he’s happy he doesn’t need to talk anymore. Kisses with broken ribs was perhaps not the brightest idea he’d ever had.

He uses murtlap juice on a cotton ball against Ron’s temple, where he has been bleeding without realising – the sight of Draco’s busted up face had been too shocking for him to focus on his own pain, and even now he feels guilty seeing the bruising on the pale skin.

When Draco moves on to heal Ron’s scraped knees, making him bunch up his jeans uncomfortably, Harry finally scrapes his throat, drawing his friend’s attention.

“They won’t remember a thing,” he offers as a manner of explanation, and then, “I won’t file a report,” which has Teddy making noises of excitement, and then, “can you tell me what happened?”

Ron rubs a hand over his face tiredly because no, he can’t, since he’s not even sure what has happened either, anyway, but Draco saved his life, and that he knows. He looks down at the blond by his knees, ignoring his own care even now, in favour of helping Ron. He can’t live with the idea that Harry still thinks badly of him, and he wants to tell his friend, “Draco is a good man now,” but he’s not sure that would do.

So instead he says, “we were just walking back home,” and Teddy leans into his side, so he wraps his arm around the boy’s shoulder as Draco heals his torn skin, “those guys came out of nowhere, screaming slurs and overpowering us. I couldn’t reach my wand. But Draco is amazing at none-verbal, wandless magic so he just body bound them and—“

Harry interrupts, nodding in understand, “so it was a hate crime?”

His browns knit together and he feels anger bubbling at his throat, “what?! No, Harry I just told you! He didn’t body bound them because they were muggles and he hates them! He—“

Before he can finish his exclamation – Harry frowning at him in confusion – he hears a small giggle coming from the blond by his feet. When Draco looks up at him he’s smiling, shaking his head as he gets up.

“Harry means that the muggles were committing a hate crime,” Draco explains patiently – the same voice he uses to explain muggle medicine too – returning the murtlap juice to the mediwitch case, “that’s when they target a certain group of people.”

“Like… wizards?” he doesn’t understand and having had his brain completely knocked all around his skull isn’t really helping much.

“Homosexuals,” Draco says – no hesitation – then, to Harry, “we were holding hands with Teddy. They probably assumed we were his parents.”

Ron realises he’s trying to help him save face in front of his best friend, which is stupid, because Harry knows about Ron’s tendencies, but then also not, because Draco is probably not worried about what Harry thinks about homosexuality, but more about what Harry thinks about homosexuality with Draco Malfoy and then suddenly he doesn’t want him to. He wants to kiss him right then and there, on his stupid lips, with his stupid brow cocked.

He doesn’t, and instead Draco makes a pot of tea and Harry sits with them for a while, keeping an eye on Teddy as the boy plays with his unicorn and makes fun of Ron as he struggles to get his jeans pipes back down properly.

Teddy ends up inviting Harry to stay and watch a movie together and now Ron knows his friend has responsibilities and obligations but he still feels this fondness as he watches him nod his head and then hop off his chair, matching grins with his godson.

Draco goes to follow except that Ron shakes his head at him silently and then ushers the other two to the living room with their teacups. The blond stands behind the counter at a loss, and Ron takes the mediwitch case in one hand and Draco’s own in the other and takes him into his office and then through the sliding doors to his bedroom.

He is sluggish as he undresses, peels the leotard down his pale skin and there’s bruises blooming on his side and his elbows are scraped raw. His bellybutton glitters in the light when the diamond hits it and when he strips off the tights he is so nude and it kind of hits Ron right in the chest with how pretty he is – not in a sexual way but in a way much deeper than most, how ugly he used to think this boy was in school and how wrong he had been.

“You’re not what I expected,” he says as he follows Draco’s advice and uses a cotton cloth to rub a potion gently into the bruised skin, the colour fading very slowly – and he doesn’t mean, you are not who I slept with or you are not who I thought you were when I came to your office but he means when I moved into this place I thought you were the Slytherin Prince, hell-with-a-pretty-butt, my arch nemeses, and I was wrong.

He cringes when Ron presses a little too hard and there’s a deep exhale, as if the weight of the world has been carried on his shoulders for too long and he’s letting it go now, “look, Ronald, I’m not going to lie to you and pretend that who I was at Hogwarts was just a character I played. My upbringing may explain my behaviour but it doesn’t excuse it and I realise that, too,” he allows Ron to dip the cotton into the potion again and return to tending to his hurt side, eyes slipping shut, “there’s bits and pieces of me that are still the same as then, but I’ve changed a lot too,” even after the bruise has faded, Ron leaves his fingers and the cotton brushes there – and he thinks maybe Draco knows but he doesn’t say, “I am more than just a Slytherin, and more than just a Malfoy, too. And I can’t deny that that feels good.”

When his eyes open again, they smile at each other, and Ron thinks maybe he’s found someone who can understand him, all of him.

“I didn’t know you very well in school,” he says, and then carefully daps at Draco’s swollen cheeks with the cotton, beneath his eyes where his skin is still blue.

“No one did,” Draco replies, and then, as an afterthought, “does.”

He doesn’t ask what it means and he doesn’t need to because he thinks he knows. Perhaps there is only Pansy, and maybe Ron, but not more. Perhaps there are only pieces of Draco Malfoy scattered around the world, pieces that people have seen and met and shook hands with, but never enough to form a full picture.

And he has peace with that, because Ron would hate to think too many people know Draco as he does now. He has spent his whole life sharing all he has with his brothers, and he doesn’t think this is something he would like to share very much. This moment in time as he presses damp cotton to Draco’s cheek, their eyes meeting and Draco’s hand on his shoulder, in this moment he is pure and this is only their moment.

When his skin has returned to its normal light colouring again, Ron disposes of the cotton and Draco turns his back on him to change into pyjamas. He wears the same ones Teddy is, the cute ones with the glow-in-the-dark planets.

They join Harry and Teddy in the living room and the young boy comes to crawl into the blond’s lap, his hair flashing from black to yellow as they make contact. He beams and Ron, “your people-reparo is quite good too!” and neither has the heart to tell him that that’s not how it works.

***

Chapter Text

Number twelve: Fish-girl and the Broomstick

For the rest of the day they watch television, letting Teddy choose movie after movie long after Harry has returned to the office. Ron eventually too, changes into his comfortable clothes, and he brings Teddy magic markers after the boy asks him to.

Teddy has an incredible love for what Ron knows to be Ghibli movies – Cassiopeia introduced them to him when they first moved in together – but which the two other boys stubbornly refer to as “Draco and the fish-girl movies”, and they are just watching “the one where Draco likes a girl but is actually a river” when the child starts doodling on his cousin’s arm absentmindedly.

He doesn’t seem to notice, engrossed as the lead’s parents are turned into pigs and absentmindedly noting how good the food looks, but Ron can’t avert his eyes. On one arm there’s the really colourful collection of flowers, and on the other arm, Teddy is now drawing a brightly coloured robot.

He knows bright colours suit this Draco – even though he never saw the boy wearing bright colours back in school – and he has such fond memories of Draco on his off days, running around the flat in coloured shirts, wearing bright white t-shirts as he disappears into his room to carve some wood, slivers of pink underwear as he bends over to put the dishes back.

It’s just the flowers that don’t seem like the most obvious choice – just because Draco doesn’t keep flowers, anywhere, only succulents, and it just doesn’t seem to make all that much sense to get flowers tattooed over a dark mark. Then again, Ron has never had a dark mark so he supposes he doesn’t really know either.

So he asks, “why did you choose flowers?” lightly indicating his head in the direction of his arm.

Draco shrugs, giggles when Teddy’s marker tickles him, “flowers are alive and vibrant and growing. All the things I aspire to be,” he says it very lightly, as if it’s not a very private thing at all, but Ron knows better.

“I think you’re the sun,” he says and fights the urge to run his fingers through Draco’s hair, “all the flowers gravitate towards you.”

He feels really silly saying it and already knows there’s a blush creeping up his cheeks. Luckily he hears the sound of keys in the lock and then Cassiopeia and Pansy laughing as they enter the apartment – the moment breaks, sounds of heels on the wooden floor and then the girls calling their names.

Cassiopeia is hooking her finger in her high heel to take it off and Pansy flops down next to the boys on the couch, still in her black lady-suit and unbuttoning her outer jacket.

“We had an adventure today!” Teddy exclaims excitedly when Pansy ruffles his hair.

The blonde goes to hug her long-time roommate and before Ron can grimace at the movement Draco warns absentmindedly, “don’t hug him too tight, his ribs are reconnecting,” and the girl looks absolutely mortified.

“His what are what?!” she shrieks, dumping her very expensive-looking pumps by the side of the sofa, “I thought you quit Quidditch?!”

Her look is accusing and before he can go to explain himself Teddy perks up happily, “we fought horribly stinking dementors!” he thrusts out his hand as if he’s holding a blade and it’s kind of cute, Ron’s smiling, “they tried to suck out our fun but we didn’t let them!”

“Dementors?” Pansy’s dark brows meet her fringe as she manages to worm herself out of her jacket, “here in Notting Hill?”

And this time Ron is laughing instead, loudly, and then Teddy is too and then soon, they all are and he’s not sure why either, except that there’s these people here with him and even though this morning life seemed horrible and he felt unwanted and a waste-of-space he is reminded again that he is home here and this is his life now. Laughing on couches with ridiculous people.

He catches Draco’s eyes and they’re shining with mirth and for the first time in a long time he thinks that maybe he’s been making all the right decisions lately because they’ve led him to this exact moment.

And he stays in bed most of the following day, his ribs still sore and the thought of it vaguely satisfying – he gets to spend a whole day doing nothing without feeling bad about it. He lays on his side and watches the sunflowers and how much they’ve grown, brown hearts gravitating towards the sunlight.

It’s late afternoon by the time that he gets up, and then it is only to write a letter for Harry, with words of thanks and questions of availability in the next week, and then he shifts through his mother’s letters too, who has sent word after word when rumours of his Quidditch career – or lack thereof – had started circulating. His family is watching him with matching looks of disapproval, but these days he is always ignoring them, turning his back on the picture still standing in the frame. He feels distance from them – not only physical now, but distance in the way that he doesn’t think they could understand him, and he doesn’t want to have to explain.

He looks at his family picture and he unpacks a picture of him, Harry and Hermione too, because it belongs there and he still has a lot of his boxes to unpack because he is a horrible planner, really, and it feels a little less like they are judging him now. There’s a lot of sun today, and he sits in front of his window and lets the light warm him. His ribs no longer hurt but he feels acutely aware of how they keep his heart caged in, and he’s not sure why but he is overcome with this sense of longing, to let his heart run free.

He’s never thought of himself in terms of not-free before.

The light is already fading when there’s a knock on his door, and he says “yes” on reflex and not because he actually means it, because he hasn’t showered in two days and he is just sitting there staring out of his window and he thinks he must look crazy.

It’s Draco, and he knows the term crazy is only a relative one.

He’s carrying a take-out container and a bottle of white wine, no glasses. Ron can see the condensation on the green bottle. He’s wearing bright red sweatpants and a matching hoodie and there’s something in the air, something that calls to him, like crackling static putting his hairs on edge. He saved me, he thinks, and he feels it resonate inside his heart.

“You haven’t eaten all day,” he puts the container on Ron’s desk – his nose is perfect now, but he remembers what it looked like before, bloody and busted and in ruins, “would you like to talk about it?”

Ron has many things to say, really. He wants to say that some people are scum and something like sorry even though he’s not to blame. He wants to say how violence is not foreign to him – having attended Hogwarts with Harry by his side – but how this had felt like more than just violence, it had felt personal. He has been beaten before, but never out of such an easily understandable concept: I love you.

And then he doesn’t know how to explain that either because he’s never told Draco anything of the likes and perhaps they will never come to that point either, and still he feels it but he cannot apologise for words he hasn’t even said.

So instead he shakes his head in a no, and watches how Draco’s throat contracts in the fading light of day as he takes a swig from the bottle. Perhaps Draco is unused to this particular kind of violence too; perhaps, despite their violent pasts, they both feel at a loss here.

“Let me check your ribs,” it’s not a question, and it doesn’t need to be either, he saved me, and Ron wonders of how true that is.

He moves to the bed and takes off his shirt, not without a little hesitance, but only because he still feels a little sore. The bandages are still sticking to his skin where Draco put them on him the other day, over his busted ribs. The area had been purple, but the discolouring is completely gone now.

He takes a long time skimming his pale fingers over them, checking for something Ron doesn’t know you can feel. Maybe he’ll get caught now, because those fingers can feel cracks and can they feel the fluttering of his heart too, when they touch him just so?

There’s a heat in his belly now, tingling on his skin and clouding his brain. Draco is so close, his lashes are so pretty. It’s more than just an urge and more than just desire now, it like a second nature and something of a habit, so when he leans in just a breath closer, Ron meets him halfway and they kiss.

It’s not just a kiss, not really, because Ron feels his breath hitch and he wonders if those wandering fingers have felt it too, the way his heart stutters and there’s a whole bunch of sentiment tying his tongue.

Draco looks surprised, but only for a split-second where he pulls back, grey orbs questioning blue and then goes back in immediately – curiosity has never killed no dragon.

There’s a lot of deep and more and it’s like his heart is beating in every single pore of his body, he’s thrumming with the feel of it, with Draco and his tenderness. Maybe they spend ages just embracing, locked lips and entwining arms, fingers meeting – he wants to stay like this forever, right here in this moment with him.

And then Draco’s sweatpants are on the floor and it’s even better. His breath is stuttering now, his lips close to Ron’s chin and his fingers grasp onto his shirt, levering for comfort. They’re so close, pressing together and he can count every single one of the pretty lashes, watches as his eyes flutter shut and then open again. He’s usually so vocal but now there’s only petite mewls and harsh breaths against his neck – as if he doesn’t want to disturb their moment with too much noise.

He hides his face in Draco’s hoody, inhales his scent and feels the blond’s hips stutter in his lap, hears the tiny breath as it rustles his hair. His arms are tight around his back, as if he’s searching for something, desperate to keep it safe – and Ron thinks that’s okay too, a little desperation never hurt. His own hands glide underneath the thick red fabric and he marvels at the smooth skin under his palms – he wants to kiss it, but not now, he’s too intoxicated with how he feels.

His spine arches, and his breath stops, and just for this single second Ron feels perfect.

Afterwards Draco doesn’t want to move at first – he continues to sit in Ron’s lap, a little dazed and his eyes glazed over. Callused fingers brush over his nose lovingly, as if the inspect his own handiwork and he feels a silly smile take over his face. Mind-blowing orgasms have turned better men into fools, he is sure, so he just smiles wider until he’s showing his teeth, and when he finally moves out of Ron’s lap they fall to the bed, giggling.

“I’m getting old,” he remarks, sweaty by Draco’s side, hair sticking at odd angles and he can see the confusion cross the pale face.

“Hmm?” he’s lazy now, pleasantly flustered as he turns on his side.

“Slow reflexes,” it’s enough for the meaning to hit him – Ron had been scrambling for his wand like an inexperienced first-year, and in that time Draco had perfected a none-verbal wandless spell.

“It’s been a while since you fought a war,” it’s gentle, the tone he uses on him, as if that in itself is meant as an apology.

“I’m so damn lucky to have you on my side this time ‘round,” Ron means it when he says it, and he sees the impact it has on his partner as a whole lot of feeling flashing on his face.

When he speaks again he’s cocky, as always, and Ron has to laugh, “damn right,” is what he says and then he makes a face like he’s some kind of tough guy in that one horribly old action movie they watched with Teddy yesterday.

Then they’re quiet for a moment, just enjoying each other’s company. Draco’s fingers touch his shoulder, gliding down the cooling skin and he follows the scar there with the tip, dipping into where the scar tissue is thickest, the healed skin almost white.

“Is this from back then?” he asks, genuinely intrigued – because healers don’t usually call it a done job if there’s a scar remaining – and he means the war and it’s been so long that when Ron thinks back at it, it no longer hurts.

He remembers the time spent with Harry and Hermione, three tired teens looking for the answer and coming up empty-handed. He remembers the months, their desperation, their fights. But none of it hurts – it is just another adventure they shared, another chapter in their story, one he is proud to have been a part of.

“Oh, you’re going to love this story,” he grins so wide his cheeks almost hurt with it, turning to face the blond properly as he continues excitedly, “this is from when I illegally apparated and splinched my arm. Left a big old chunk of it behind.”

Draco looks very appalled for someone whose job consists of cutting muggles up, but that’s just Ron’s opinion on the matter. He makes this adorable spluttering sound in protest, eyes widening as if not sure whether or not he’s being lied to, and then he just cringes, and Ron figures he’s probably seen splinching while training to become a healer.

“Really?!” he asks just to check but he sees nothing but honesty in Ron’s eyes and then just spontaneously pouts, indignantly, “oh that’s a horrible story, why did you think I would enjoy it?”

He laughs at that, lets Draco’s fingers splay patterns over the marred skin. He traces a hand through Draco’s hair because it’s really very soft, and watches Draco watch his torn flesh, engrossed in the way the skin feels underneath his digits.

“I want to ride my broom,” it’s an absentminded remark made for the purpose of filling the air with words, and as they leave his mouth Ron is already done thinking about it.

“So why don’t you?” it seems that Draco is talking just as thoughtlessly, overlooking the most obvious reasons such as one: it’s late in the evening already and two: they live in one of the busiest parts of London. Ron knows muggles overlook a lot, but he doubts they’ll be able to overlook some nutter flying a broomstick – actually, they may even need Draco’s therapy after such a sighting!

“I wouldn’t really know where to,” he shrugs his shoulders, still imagining some poor muggle in one of Draco’s chairs, trying to explain how he saw a stark-naked redhead flitting around on a broom.

“Alright then,” Draco stretches his arms above his head and cracks his shoulders – his hoodie rides up and Ron is momentarily distracted because there’s skin there begging to be kissed, “let’s go!”

He gets up and starts looking for where they discarded his sweat pants earlier, his pale buttocks still bare and still very much diverting Ron from processing what has just been said.

“Wait what? Now?” he blinks stupidly as he watches the buttocks disappear behind red fabric and then when he looks up at the blond’s face the boy is smiling like he knows exactly what is going on in his head – a not altogether comforting feeling.

“Yes, why not?”

He probably makes a fair point because after all they are wizards and apparating to some far-off place is not actually that impossible, and Ron doesn’t usually ride his broom at night but then that’s only because his job used to be keeping balls out of goals which would probably be a challenge in pitch black.

“I’ve never ridden my broom after a mind blowing orgasm before,” he settles on what he hopes oozes confidence and from the way Draco is cocking his eyebrow he thinks he at least managed to amuse him.

“Would you like a moment to recuperate?” except that Draco is much better at this game they play and his voice is devastatingly teasing and then he does a little enticing shimmy with his hips before he leaves the room and Ron cannot stay behind after such a blatant provocation.

So he lets Draco take him someplace, brooms in hand, and that night though they fly in almost total darkness, he doesn’t feel fear.

***

Chapter Text

Number thirteen: Mental Healing

He meets Harry for dinner a couple of days later, because he knows Harry wants to talk more profoundly about what happened with the muggles, and about him quitting his job. For the most part he’s not really sure how to explain, but he thinks maybe he doesn’t have to because he spends a lot of the time talking about Draco and Harry is really oblivious about most things, but there’s something in the way that he refrains from making a single snarky remark that tells Ron he probably knows.

It’s not the same as with Cassiopeia, to whom Draco Malfoy is a genius doctor slash healer with impeccable suit-senses, an extensive wine collection, a hot lesbian best friend and the literal magic touch, because this is Harry, to whom Malfoy is just more of his childhood nightmares and reminders of a war he didn’t want to fight and parents he didn’t get to meet and friends he can never meet again.

He’s not sure why but he ends up telling Harry about the whole therapy thing Draco advocates and to his surprise his friend is not unfamiliar with the concept. He asks Ron, “you’re giving it a shot?” and Ron doesn’t want to lie but there’s a tiredness in Harry’s eyes that makes him think all he needs is a little encouragement.

So he says, “it’s great mate. You get to talk about all these shitty things that you don’t usually get to talk about. And he just kind of sits there and sorts my thoughts out for me, you know?” and it’s not actually a lie, he realises as the words leave his mouth.

Because in Draco’s office, he says things he can’t usually say – and though Draco appears passive throughout the whole process he is always rephrasing and rehashing his thoughts and presenting them in a much more conclusive manner than Ron can think them up.

Harry rubs his temples before nursing his beer again and he doesn’t need to say it. They’ve known each other for more than ten years – Ron knows exactly what he’s finding so hard to ask.

“I’ll ask him about it, maybe he knows someone,” he smiles encouragingly just because he doesn’t want Harry to feel bad about this – there’s weakness in all of them, and he thinks that maybe Harry has been hiding his own for far too long.

He receives a grateful pat on his shoulder and can tell his friend is smiling behind his beer now, too.

They walk back to the apartment for a last beer and meet Cassiopeia in the hallway. She’s wearing a really short summer dress and Harry tries not to stare at her cleavage too obviously but it’s a straight boy weakness even Harry can’t hide – they make small talk as they head for the door and then all three of them still at the exact same moment because there is music coming from inside.

Music with a really deep bass and dirty lyrics, from what Ron can understand. He exchanges a look with Cassiopeia and they’re both thinking the same: “I expect this kind of music from you,” and then they reach out to open the door at the same time.

The music is not as loud inside as Ron had expected – the kitchen is empty, but there’s two oddly-shaped empty bottles of something on the kitchen island and he has a hunch that whatever had been in them is illegal. There’s loud, off-key singing coming from the living room, and he hears Pansy giggle as Draco yells along to the lyrics.

Harry continues to push Ron in the general direction of the noise and Cassiopeia nods at him very sternly and then when he enters the living room Draco and Pansy are practically naked and they are dancing on what Pansy claimed is a very expensive Egyptian sofa and therefor the one sofa not meant to bounce on. All in all he shouldn’t be surprised at the discovery that she herself apparently bounced on it in her free time, but really, he hadn’t expected to find out like this.

She’s also wearing really tiny panties and her boobs are really small so her bra is really small too and Ron automatically thinks about all the times he’s seen Cassiopeia in her underwear and he always just assumed that girlfriends share their clothes but he realises now, for some idiotic reason, that Pansy is probably too tiny to share clothes with anyone. Next to her, Draco looks almost buff, which is just silly because Draco is absolutely gorgeous but nowhere near buff-looking.

And he’s wearing pink boxer briefs with tiny little dragons on them and his cheekbones are really kind of glowing in the light which is a kind of odd thing for cheekbones to do, and so Ron is just absolutely mesmerized and he stands there staring for which feels like millennia of time passing, Draco’s ass moving and the dragons dancing along to the beat.

“HEY!” when the blond notices the three of them standing there staring he halts his moves momentarily, only to point at them with an accusing finger, “we’re not allowing clothes at this time, please take a shot and try again!”

Pansy waves another one of the weird shaped glass bottles and points to side table, where there’s a collection of oddly shaped bottles, firewhisky, and an assortment of muggle alcohols and shot glasses – she then continues to make a weird hand movement as if she’s chugging down a shot and then grabs onto Draco’s hips as she swings her own down.

Cassiopeia doesn’t even hesitate – she just very casually pulls her dress over her head and then heads over to the table to open up a new bottle and pour herself a shot. Harry looks as if he might faint as he stares at where the summer dress has fallen to the floor.

“What are we celebrating?” she has to yell over the music and then makes a face when she downs her shot, handing the bottle over to Ron and urging him with an insistent look, “and what is even in that?

“We are celebrating my total and utter failure!” Pansy sounds very excited for someone who has apparently just failed at life, “Draco’s father brought that shit from Russia!” she then dissolves in a fit of giggles.

“Is that a Slytherin thing to do?” Cassiopeia asks the boys – Ron is hesitating to take a drink of anything imported by Lucius Malfoy but when the blonde starts to unbutton his shirt he thinks he’s probably going to need a little something to help him make it out of this night alive, “celebrating failures?”

“It is!” Draco jumps off the couch just as the bell rings, grinning at Cassiopeia only a little lopsided, “we don’t do the whole crying over spilt firewhisky shit.”

No one is surprised that if Slytherins were to cry over something, it wouldn’t be pumpkin juice like the rest of the normal wizards and witches but they nod anyway. With those wise words he heads into the kitchen and Cassiopeia is left with the task of undressing Ron as Harry bravely takes the bottle and then takes two great gulps of it. His face speaks volumes but then as Cassiopeia goes to unzip Ron’s jeans he takes another swallow for good measure, before starting on pulling his own sweater off.

“Come dance with me,” Pansy makes grabby hands in Ron’s general direction and if he’s surprised he’s pretty sure he does a good job at hiding it, “I like feeling small when I dance!”

The sentiment makes absolutely no sense to Ron whatsoever but then he does spend a lot of his time working on his body and he is also a tiny bit frightened of what a drunk Pansy Parkinson may do to him if disobeyed. She feeds him another swallow of the bottle she’s nursing and he swears he can feel it in his head already, so that it takes him a moment to register what is going on when cheerful new voices reach his ears.

Draco is back and he brought guests – two girls, one blonde and one brunette that Ron vaguely recognises from Hogwarts, and Blaise Zabini and Theodore Nott, whom he has no trouble remembering. The two girls are wearing sequined dresses, stilettos and dark make-up, but upon spotting the state of the living room they promptly drop their dresses down their shoulders and step out of them – in an eerily similar way which makes Ron really glad he never met them properly at Hogwarts – and then come over to Pansy for kisses and hugs.

“Tracey, Daphne,” Pansy is slurring their names but it doesn’t deter their affections – Ron however is too busy noticing Zabini’s hand on Draco’s waist to pay their pleasantries any attention.

He is vaguely aware of Harry being introduced properly to the two Slytherin girls and then Cassiopeia kissing their cheeks but all he can think is how they look so comfortable being so close and—

“Damn Weasley, you got buff!” Blaise’s voice is almost taunting and he goes to pat at Ron’s abs but before he can do any such a ridiculous thing Pansy kind of goes to cling on him, blocking her friend’s move.

“Get off,” she jeers, holding Ron in a very tight grip for such a small, drunk girl, “he is my King tonight!” and if Ron wasn’t already a little bit intoxicated he would have probably blushed bright red at the words.

As it is he just kind of childishly sticks out his tongue at the three Slytherin boys and then twirls Pansy very gracefully as she reduces to giggles – and he’s not sure if Blaise can tell but if he could focus all his magic into his glare and have it make the boy vomit slugs that’s exactly what he would be doing.

It’s not long before the room has been reduced to absolute mayhem with half the alcohol gone and everyone getting down and dirty – and it’s funny because Harry is being sandwiched between Cassiopeia and the brunette Ron is pretty sure is called Tracey and he’s pretty sure he’s part of a train consisting of Theo, Pansy and Daphne and there’s hands all over his body and he’s not sure who they belong to but he also doesn’t care anymore.

There’s lights in the air, little flickering fish-shaped colours dancing to the beat above their head, and the leftover bottles are swaying around filling up their cups and there’s a lot of vibrant magic there and it reminds Ron of the Gryffindor dorm during a victory Quidditch party with the one difference that all the Slytherins are really damn dirty dancers, and really darn good at it, too. Oh and, to Ron’s best recollection, Gryffindors never partied in scanty underwear.

A new song comes on and all the Slytherins just start hollering in recognition and if he thought they were dirty before there’s no words for it now because they’re just literally getting down and shaking their asses so low they nearly touch the floor and the hands on his own abs are getting very insistent and he’s pretty sure he can feel the way Theo is grinding all along his back because he’s so close. Their hips are aggressive, shaking with conviction and Pansy is doing something with her legs that is making her behind move like crazy against Ron’s front to loud approval from her friends.

It’s silly, he knows he shouldn’t be jealous, because they’re all just having fun, living their best lives and he is single, they’re not in a relationship but…

There’s just something about it – almost intimate – the way the pale shoulders meet the dark chest and it’s almost obscene where Blaise is running his hands down the tender stomach, brushing passed his piercing as they go. He holds the sharp hips in his hands and lets his friend’s waist do all the work as they gyrate together smoothly, Draco’s body moving against his in waves glittering in the light, and there’s something stuck in Ron’s chest but he can’t look away.

Suddenly he feels a tug and Pansy is pulling at his arm and he thinks he’s been caught staring but nobody seems to be paying much attention to anything besides their own bodies now – her lipstick is smeared slightly as she smiles at him and leads him to the side table clumsily.

She uses a single hand motion to summon a small vial of purple liquid and then pours four cups of firewhisky and adds the purple potion to one of the cups, pressing a finger to her lips conspiratorially to shush Ron when he asks, “you’re spiking the alcohol?”

She takes two cups in her hands and Ron quickly takes the remaining two, following her as she wobbles her way over to her best friend – she greets Draco with kisses to his cheeks and he gratefully takes one of the cups off her while Blaise takes the second. Ron is so grateful to finally see those two bodies separating that he gives it no thought as he hands a cup over to Pansy and they then meet in a toast, “to the best bitch!” the others cheering along.

It takes exactly two seconds for the potion to take effect and then suddenly Blaise starts hiccupping – as he does so brightly coloured bubbles leave his mouth in rapid concession, soaring high up into the air. Everyone stares at them in surprise for a single moment and then both Pansy starts laughing and Draco has to hide his face behind his hands to stifle his giggles – Blaise doesn’t look impressed, but he merely sticks out his tongue at his friends before continuing to hiccup and filling the air with bubbles.

Soon they’re all laughing and toasting and at one point Harry helps Pansy get on Ron’s shoulders and they dance just like that and it’s silly but he feels like he’s on top of the world, the blond’s smile widening as their eyes meet.

Eventually the night ends early morning with Tracy, Daphne, Harry and Theo having formed a tight little group on the floor with what appears to be Cassiopeia’s decorative pillows, and said blonde and Blaise sandwiching Pansy on the broad couch – she has her arms around both bodies almost possessively, and Ron doesn’t doubt that the girl is the best bitch even in her sleep.

Draco is carrying the shot glasses into the kitchen because somebody needs to be sensible enough to not cause further alcohol staining to the living room wooden floorboards so Ron helps by taking a couple of the still half full bottles and his head is a little bit fuzzy but all he has to do is follow the sway of that pert ass and that’s something he could do even in a fucking coma.

The water’s running but nothing’s happening. Draco has dumped the glasses in the sink but is staring at his hands instead of cleaning them and suddenly Ron is acutely aware of how close he’s gotten and he swear that’s not what he meant to do.

Nevertheless he runs a hand down Draco’s cheek. He has glitter on his chest, he sees it now with how close they are, but the glow on his face is not glitter. His cheekbones look golden, and the tip of his nose shines in the light. His eyes are dark, almost pitch black, and Ron has never seen anything like it – storms and icy skies he’s used to, but even in their most intimate moment he’s never seen this kind of gruelling hunger.

“You’ve got something on your nose,” he says – because nothing else will come forth.

“Highlight,” Draco says it very lazily, as if it’s been rolling around his mouth for a while and he’s finally let go of it, uninterested.

“Highlight?” Ron misses something, like he usually does, and his thumb glides over the sharp cheekbone, settles on his temple.

“Like…” he thinks about it and then giggles, “seeing your stupid face is the highlight of my day,” and then Ron giggles too and they just stand there giggling together until Draco takes his hands as says, “sleep with me.”

He’s not sure if he’s heard correctly because with how slowly the Slytherin is walking he’s pretty sure he’s in no state to get up to some naked naughtiness, but then he’s also pretty sure he’s not interested in sleeping in Ron’s room. Instead he guides him to his own, through the study and then he clumsily pushes at the shōji divider and pushes Ron towards the bed.

There’s no hesitation – he’s drunk, not stupid – and he carefully gets underneath the canopy and then underneath the sheets. Draco lurks in his closet for a moment and when he comes back he’s wearing maroon sweatpants and rubbing at his eyes tiredly. Ron does this silly thing where he outstretches his arms in invitation and he doesn’t feel so silly when the other boy readily takes the invitation and practically dives into bed, into Ron’s arms, sighing gently into his neck.

It’s pretty damn amazing and he’s pretty sure that’s not because he’s drunk – he can feel Draco’s soft exhales against his own skin and the smaller body presses tightly into him as if trying to fit them together like a mismatched puzzle. He falls asleep like that, wrapped in a warmth he cannot fully explain or comprehend at that point, and too buzzed to care.

He wakes up a couple of hours later with the same body still pressing into him except now Draco is staring at him. His head is already pounding and he just wants to go back to sleep.

“You’re in my bed,” Draco says, which is ridiculously obvious because actually he’s not just in his bed, he’s also sandwiched between Draco and his mattress, and Draco’s canopy is shunning half his view, so yeah he is in Draco’s bed all the way.

“Yes,” he answers because he literally just got two hours of sleep after an excessive amount of alcohol and his tongue is complaining with every move its forced to make. When Draco continues to stare however, he ignores the pounding headache and his numb tongue and slurs, “you asked me to, remember?”

“I did?” he’s starting to realise that Draco sounds ridiculously normal and it makes him realise that this is actually a very uncomfortable and unsafe situation for him – he is uprightly and unpleasantly surprised at another present in his bed, and it’s putting him on-edge enough to sober him.

“Yes,” Ron tries to reassure him with a soft voice but he’s pretty sure he sounds like a chainsaw went at his vocal chords and his body feels stiff so he just tries blinking reassuringly instead.

“Oh,” Draco visually relaxes, his body going slack into Ron’s. He rests his chin on the broad chest and asks, “and… you’re ok?”

“Yeah,” he wants to add how the canopy is a little weird but he doesn’t want to insult him and actually he is probably better than okay because one of Draco’s thighs is between his own and he has Draco’s glittery chest pressed into his body.

“Oh,” Draco says again, blinking rather stupidly.

“You ok?” Ron decides it’s best to return the courtesy in such a situation, so he does just that, and then he stares at the still-shimmering cheekbones. He can’t get over how damn pretty this boy is, it’s almost sickening how good he looks, half-drunk at four in the morning, tangled hair, sleepy eyes, gorgeous.

“Yes,” is the reply, and then when Ron kind of just nods in reply, Draco’s lashes blink rapidly and he then proposes, “you wanna cuddle?”

That’s a really stupid question, Ron thinks, but saying so would probably decrease his chances of cuddling to zero so he keeps his thought to himself and says a little too loudly, “yes!”

“Oh,” Draco is just in a permanent state of slightly surprised, but he doesn’t hesitate further when he follows it with a, “okay, sure.”

He gets off Ron’s body lazily and he’s about to complain because they’re supposed to be cuddling closer, not getting further from each other, but then Draco turns onto his side and urges him to copy the movement. When he’s turned properly, the blond uses his hands to guide Ron’s face into his chest and then gently starts stroking through his hair with his long fingers.

“Oh,” says Ron this time, and then, before he dozes off again, “okay, sure.”

Chapter Text

Number fourteen: Hiss Hiss Motherfucker

He’s the first one up and although he doesn’t want to leave Draco’s bed, he also is really craving chocolate slathered pancakes and he wants to do something nice for the blond after his hospitality, after drinking with him and dancing with him and introducing his friends to him without embarrassment and after cuddling him. Life feels like magic today, warm afternoon sun streaming in through the window and Draco’s highlight beautifully accentuating his high cheekbones.

It feels even more magical after he steals one of his hangover potions and then he goes into his room to find a pair of sweatpants and starts making his pancakes topless, because after seeing so many people in their underwear he’s pretty sure he’s allowed to make pancakes without a shirt.

He ignores the letters on his desk from his mother and brother because he knows they’ll be upset and or angry and he just doesn’t want to deal with it right now. He just wants to feed the army of Slytherins and best buddies sleeping in his living room and most of all he wants to watch Draco’s smile take over his face like it did last night as he giggled, seeing your stupid face is the highlight of my day.

Harry stumbles in first, jeans still unbuttoned but at least pulled all the way up and his hair is a dirty black mop on top of his head and the way he’s rubbing his forehead reminds him of worse times long ago, of aching scars and horrible nightmares, and there’s a warmth in his heart at the thought of how relieved Harry must be every time his head hurts with something else, these days.

He mumbles, “Slytherins are crazy dude,” and then doesn’t say anything as he makes coffee. He sits in front of Ron while he continues baking and nurses his cup like it’s a lifeline – which from the look on his face, it is – staring at the frying pan with vacant eyes.

Next is Draco and he’s still wearing those maroon sweatpants and his hair is ruffled and his cheekbones are still kind of golden and he falters just slightly because he just wants to coo and take the blond in his arms everything he does is so adorable to him now, he can’t stop thinking about how he’d taken him closer and stroked his hair and it’s just too much.

Before he can get his own coffee and greet the two Gryffindors properly though, Daphne pads in barefoot, giving them all a lazy wave and a, “babe, zip me up?”

Draco hands her a steaming mug of coffee and then helps her do up her dress and their eyes meet over her shoulder and he doesn’t look embarrassed or ashamed or hungover, just still a little tired but content, a lazy smile hiding in his corner as his eyes lock with Ron’s.

“Are you working at Saint-Mungo’s this week,” Daphne asks around her cup, directed at her friend, “Astoria is due for a check-up and some of the other Healers…”

She trails off and Harry and Ron share a common look of absolute ignorance – Draco however nods, flattening the back of her dress with his hands as he answers, “I’ll be there on Friday, tell Astoria to come see me.”

The blonde nods gratefully and then her eyes fall onto Ron and suddenly she frowns – he wonders if maybe she’s never seen a boy cook before, or maybe she’s never seen a half-naked boy cook before, or maybe she’s never seen pancakes being cooked before or maybe she’s never seen pancakes being cooked without magic before – and then questions in a curious voice, “is that glitter?”

Everyone turns to stare at him at exactly the same time and Harry even gets off his chair slightly to get a closer look – there is indeed glitter on his chest from where Draco’s skin had been pressed into his own earlier. He thinks he’s going to be mortified except Pansy chooses that exact moment to stumble into the kitchen with a way too cheerful, “by Salazar do I smell pancakes?” and just like that Harry and Daphne turn to her instead.

Draco meets his eyes and winks and maybe he’s going to faint instead.

Your king made you pancakes,” the blond teases heartily and Pansy makes googly eyes at him just for fun. Cassiopeia comes in a second behind and pouts, “I bet that’s a Hogwarts thing I’m missing, isn’t it?”

She’s wearing Harry sweater but he doesn’t seem bothered by this and then Pansy frowns as she flops down next to the raven, “you haven’t heard? It’s this song Draco made about Ron!”

“Wait what?” Cassiopeia sets her hands on her hips in an eerily similar pose to his mother and he feels her eyes burn in the side of his head as he watches his pancake bake fixedly, “I didn’t know you were such good friends at Hogwarts!”

Before anyone can explain to Cassiopeia that actually no, quite the opposite, actually, the remaining three Slytherins waltz in laughing way too loudly for people that should be hungover.

“Draco and Weasley, friends?” Blaise is just in his boxers and Theo beelines for the coffee pot while Tracey sits down on the other side of Harry, “as if. What was it again?” he nods in Theo’s direction.

The slender boy takes a big gulp of coffee, clears his throat and then says in a high voice, “red hair.”

Blaise mimics the voice and Ron realises too late that they’re mocking Draco – however there’s the all-too-familiar, “hand-me-down-robe,” and then just every single Slytherin – minus the blond who is too busy staring into his cup, mortified – and Harry, the traitor, chants, “YOU MUST BE A WEASLEY!”

The kitchen explodes with laughter and despite himself Ron has too laugh too because honestly Draco looks so affronted as if he just cannot believe that these people are his friends, and he just cannot make up his mind if he should be more disappointed with his eleven-year-old self or the decisions he made that gave him such terrible comrades and that just makes it more funny. Cassiopeia appears to be doubting all of their sanity as she doesn’t understand the joke and he thinks he hears her protests feebly, “but Ronald doesn’t wear hand-me-downs,” and that in itself is even more funny so he ends up laughing harder, clutching his sides as he has to turn down the heat of the stove not to burn his pancakes.

“Wait,” Harry wheezes as he struggles to speak, grasping at his stool to keep himself from falling off, “Ron never told you when you moved in?”

Cassiopeia shrugs as she comes to stand next to her friend, slapping his back half-heartedly, “he told me about the Slytherin prince and princess thing but I figured it was just an aesthetics thing you know?” she makes a face at Harry that Ron doesn’t fully comprehend except he knows she’s making it about him, “we all know how he likes them cunning and intellectual.”

His ears burn red and Harry tips his head to the side. No one seems to get what Cassiopeia is saying so they all calmly sip coffee and wait for her to explain when Harry huffs, “umm what?”

“Oh come on,” she rolls her eyes now – something she does often around Harry, which he finds endearing since the people he works with everyday adore him too much to roll their eyes at him, “The only girl in the Triwizard tournament? Brightest witch of your year? Ronald was a raging sapiosexual long before he was a raging homosexual!”

Blaise nearly spits out his coffee in surprise and Pansy snorts so hard she’s coughing the next second. His ears burn even redder and he splutters in protest, “hey now that’s just not true! I dated Lavender Brown and—“ he doesn’t want to say it out loud but he doesn’t have to; everyone nods in agreement to the unspoken statement.

“Well, I guess there has been an exception or two,” Cassiopeia pats his back reassuringly, “I mean, there also was that Spanish boy.”

Draco gives him a look and he wants to just go pout for a couple of hours because Harry is giving him a very stern look – even though it appears to be hurting his pounding head to be doing so, “you dated a Spanish boy?” he sounds indignified, running a hand through his hair and tangling it further, “why didn’t you tell me?”

The next words he speaks he says very very quietly because he is just really embarrassed to admit it, and he just kind of mutters, “you still thought the reason me and Hermione broke up was over that cauldron incident,” into his frying pan.

Before anyone can ask him to repeat himself Cassiopeia just kind of slaps her hand into her own forehead and groans, the deepest, loudest groan ever to have been groaned and Ron just knows that she is absolutely one hundred percent done with Harry James Potter, “the cauldron incident?” she repeats ominously, “what the flying dragon shit Harry. How oblivious can you get? How did you not accidentally flush yourself down the toilet as a kid?!”

Ron wants to point out how flushing yourself down the toilet is not something that can generally happen in Britain unless you’re aiming on travelling to the Ministry of Magic which Harry had no way of knowing as a child since he was raised by horrible muggles but the Slytherins are laughing at Cassiopeia’s outburst and he hears Draco, too, and he just gets kind of mystified by the pretty sound of his happiness.

“In my defence,” Harry defends bravely – except Ron kind of has a hunch that whatever he’s about to say it’s going to be something scandalizing, “we lived in a dorm with Dean and Seamus for six years and there was never even the slighting hint—“

There it was. He feels all these emotions flit across his face but mostly he feels pained because he would just never—

“How desperate do you think I was Harry?!” he replies heatedly, feeling kind of ashamed that his friend thinks so lowly of him, “I’m not some—some—homewrecker!

There’s probably a better word for it, but Cassiopeia is patting his shoulder soothingly in agreement because he’s not, honestly, he’s never been, and he never will be – the idea of cheating or being cheated on or being the person someone cheats with is just repulsive to him.

Harry has the audacity to look confused – as if he has reason to believe that Ron is a homewrecker. But then he says, “what? Dean and Seamus haven’t been dating since Hogwarts!” and he looks at him as if he’s just completely lost his mind.

His statement is met with just general groans all around the kitchen and Draco shakes his head in absolute disbelief while Theo just kind of hides his face in his hands as if embarrassed in Harry’s place.

“For fucks sake Potter,” Pansy whistles sharply, “even the Slytherins knew about that! Did you even go to Hogwarts?”

Blaise nods fiercely, waving one hand around dramatically and trying not to spill coffee with the other as he explains, “they spent the whole Yule Ball fighting over Dean checking out that Durmstrang bloke with his scrawny ass. It was the biggest gay fight in the history of big gay fights.”

Ron doesn’t remember a scrawny ass Durmstrang bloke but that’s only because he, at that time, thought he was jealous of Krum. He does, however, remember hearing them bicker on his way back to the tower and how they then didn’t speak to each other for weeks.

“Well,” Pansy looks at the ceiling thoughtfully, tapping her finger to her cheek, “except for that one time after Theo and Ernie kissed and Ernie just went crazy…”

Before she can continue Harry interjects, “wait, Ernest? The Hufflepuff? But—“ and then before he can finish Cassiopeia bumps into Ron’s side in frustration and exclaims, “but isn’t Hufflepuff the house with all the nice cool people?” she frowns and rubs her temple and then pouts before continuing, “why would a nice cool person kiss a hiss hiss motherfucker person?”

It takes a moment for everyone to process what she’s just said and then Ron and Harry are just giggling and Pansy’s lip twitches as she says very dryly, “babe, what the fuck?”

The blonde blushes as she realises she’s said something silly and she elbows Ron in his side, hard except he can’t stop laughing and then she haughtily defends herself with, “oh I’m sorry misses I come from the snake house and demand you call it by its correct name despite the fact that the name is…” her voice rises a notch as she glares at Pansy, “DUMB AS FUCK AND ITS FOUNDER HID A BIG ASS SNAKE IN A CASTLE WITH YOUNG BABIES BUT OKAY YEAH,” she calms down again when a smile cracks the Slytherin’s face, and she gives Ron one last smack in his side for good measure, “I should remember his name because reasons.”

She sticks her tongue out at Pansy and the girl blows her a kiss while Harry thumps his head into the kitchen island and sobs, “hiss hiss motherfucker.”

“Wait,” Draco speaks up suddenly and he’s giving Ron this very suspicious looking glare, his eyes turned into slits and suddenly he feels heat rise in his belly and he’s not sure if it’s even a good thing or not, “you didn’t tell Cassiopeia about Weasley is our King but you told her about the Heir of Slytherin? Am I sensing favouritism here?”

Which isn’t really fair because Draco had been mortified at the mention of Weasley is our King earlier but then he sees the smile in the corner of his mouth and he wants to smile too but he thinks he would look stupid and anyway Blaise hoots, “boo Weasley! Just boo to you!” and Cassiopeia bumps into him again and cries, “Weasley is our King? I thought he was Pansy’s?” and then before he can smile at this beautiful blond boy lingering by the counter every single person who isn’t a redhead or a none-ex-Hogwarts student is chanting.

And they’re not chanting anything mean, either, there’s only these glowing faces in his kitchen as every single Slytherin sings, “Weasley is our King! He didn’t let the quaffle in, Weasley is our King!” and they raise their cups for the second chorus and he hears Draco’s voice loud and clear as Harry winks at them and they continue cheering, “Weasley can save anything, he never leaves a single ring,” and he feels Cassiopeia by his side, finally understanding – or at least partly understanding, this sentiment of people cheering him on while he plays Quidditch, a skill he has been perfecting for most of his life now – and sharing the satisfaction of the moment with him as they finish loudly, “That’s why we all sing, Weasley is our King!”

Everyone cheers loudly and they clink their cups clumsily together and grin at him. He feels so happy for some reason, as he watches Harry clink his cup into Daphne and Tracey’s and he doesn’t feel awkward about it at all even when Pansy leans forward and kisses him square on his forehead.

“Wauw,” Cassiopeia sighs, mirth in her voice, “you peeps are really fucked up.”

Nobody argues and Draco gives a cup of coffee to Ron before agreeing, “oh I’ll fucking drink to that!”

“Here here!” Harry cheers, and then they’re clinking again and this time Ron joins in and his eyes meet Draco’s and they’re really dark again, an unseen contentment and ease in his movements as the cup meets his lips and he realises, this is his life now, and there’s perhaps a lot of things about it that are fucked up by someone’s standards at least, but he has his best friends close to him and people sharing a moment who think of him fondly.

And he remembers what Draco told him, I am more than just a Slytherin now, and he feels like he’s more than just a Gryffindor too, here, they all are more than the houses they grew up in – they’ve outgrown them and outshone them and this is what home feels like, now.

***

Chapter Text

Number fifteen: Drink Drank Drunk

 

The next day he has breakfast with Pansy and Cassiopeia before they leave for work and he knows Draco has left already but he still goes to check his room just because anything is better than opening his mail. George’s owl has brought a new letter though, and so has his mother’s and he knows that if he keeps on ignoring her she’ll show up to his flat uninvited and that is just a recipe for disaster.

He gets dressed after writing his mother a letter explaining that yes, he did actually quit the team and no he isn’t currently looking for a job but no she doesn’t need to worry because he is financially secure. After reading George’s letter however, he doesn’t really know how to reply because he’s confused about whether George is angry at him for quitting Quidditch or angry for not spontaneously showing back up at the shop to offer his free help.

He makes it all the way through lunch before he starts feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing and decides to visit Diagon alley. It feels like it’s been ages when he puts on his travel robe when actually it’s only been a couple of days, and then rummaging through the pots set on the frame around their fireplace feels a little weird too because he’s never actually used it for flooing. Pansy told him Draco built the decorative frame and they keep plants and jugs and extra glasses there because the fireplace is in the dining room which they never use but it seemed fitting to the décor.

The fire flickers on comfortably as soon as Ron enters the room and then he just kind of opens up jar after jar until he finds the familiar dust and then it isn’t long before he’s at diagon alley and that has been ages – except it hasn’t been, really.

He goes into the picture shop first, where they have different potions for developing film, and selects a couple of pictures from his phone to be developed – the dining room was absolutely bare and could do with some decoration, and his room was crying for some more group pictures, same with the living. The old witch behind the counter tells him he can pick them up in half an hour so he heads on to his brother’s shop next.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is teeming with people, as always. Years after the war it is still the most colourful shop in the street, glaring oranges and yellows screaming at you from afar, and there’s something crawling around in Ron’s stomach that is making him sick for some reason. He feels as if he’s accidentally had a flubberworm for breakfast but tries to ignore the sensation as he gets stopped by a few young witches for autographs and then finds his way to the counter and then goes behind it.

Toddler Fred comes to great him first, already well on his way to becoming a mischievous child, laughing loudly when he sees his uncle. He’s getting a lot heavier Ron realises as he takes him into a hug, and then he doesn’t think much of anything because George is looking absolutely furious.

He gets a whole lecture on how Ron helping Weasley & Weasley become such a lucrative business gives him a responsibility to keep it that way too, and his behaviour has been frankly irresponsible because instead of becoming lazy and lounging around his apartment all day since he left the team he should have come here to help keep the business up and running and now that’s not fair, Ron is pretty sure except then it gets worse.

Because apparently he is also making pretty horrible social choices now and moving in with two Slytherins was the stupidest decision he’s every made in his whole entire life – Ron is pretty sure snogging Lavender Brown had been a worse decision because he will always be scarred by Won Won – and apparently they are to blame for his recent change in behaviour and he’s just changed – he says it like it’s a horrible thing, too – and they have worked hard to create a positive image and bring light to people in their darkest hour and that is the image they still sustain to this day and Ron going ahead and living with a Death Eater is just detrimental to that image.

Ron isn’t sure what to say because he wants to say a lot of things really, and he wonders when exactly he started allowing other people to make his life choices and he feels sicker than before, a lot, and he can’t get words to formulate sentences because he’s just kind of too taken aback.

“Former,” he says but he means former death eater and former snotty noised blond because most of the things George has said are things Draco used to be but is no longer.

George just looks at him as if he’s gone crazy and he realises that to him maybe he has so he just goes back where he came from and he waves at Fred who is playing behind the counter with the witch who is minding it and then he just stands in front of the store for a moment. He’s not sure if any of that has just really happened or if maybe he’s just sleeping and imagining it all but he’s still feeling kind of sick about it. He wants to go back in and punch George in the face.

Instead he walks back to the photography store and then into the leaky cauldron and he orders a firewhisky and then another and then a third for good measure and after that he kind of loses count. He keeps seeing George’s face and how angry he’d been – about really stupid dragon dung stuff too, because Ron hasn’t stopped working since he finished Hogwarts and he’s pretty sure taking a couple of days for himself to figure out what he wants in life is not actually such a traitorous thing to do. And if it is, he’s pretty sure he’d rather betray other people than himself.

And also actually when he thinks about it it’s just not fair how other people think they can make his decisions? Why are people such assholes? He orders another drink and kind of loses track of what number he’s on but he’s pretty sure he’s not too drunk not to realise injustice when he sees it. He hasn’t been lazy, he’s been dreaming? Does that count?

He’s not even sure how he gets home because when he gets up he realises the world has become very twirly and fuzzy and he’s pretty sure he falls on his face a couple of times except it doesn’t really hurt? Maybe he runs into a wall too and alcohol just makes him have superpowers so he doesn’t feel a thing.

Anyway he does end up in the right apartment although he doubts it for a moment because there’s just a really bad smell in the air – kind of like burnt things, and that’s just not a thing that happens in his home, with its perfect marble counters and top grade ovens. Pansy and Cassiopeia are wearing matching nightgowns which is really fucking weird because they are two completely different sizes and the garment fits both of them perfectly and they both still look really adorable – he’s sure he’s not hallucinating though, these two girls are cute.

Oh shit, can alcohol make you straight?

He blinks very stupidly when he realises Cassiopeia is actually talking to him and he kind of realises he’s just been staring at her blankly for the past minute or so.

“…you eaten? There’s pasta!” she helps him into a chair and he just kind of continues to stare because it doesn’t smell like there’s actual pasta and then when Cassiopeia puts the plate in front of him he’s also pretty sure there’s no pasta.

It’s a mucky brown colour with little bits of white – which he guesses are what Cassiopeia thinks is pasta – but also little specks of black – which he guesses are responsible for the burnt smell.

He doesn’t realise he’s staring again until Pansy breezes, “you didn’t come home all day OK?! I did the best I could stop staring at it you judgemental twat!” and she sounds very affronted but Cassiopeia still giggles childishly.

Ron looks at her but doesn’t say anything because he’s pretty sure you shouldn’t tell Pansy Parkinson her food looks like shit after she went through the trouble of making you something to eat, and he just guesses that the gesture of it is very sweet and just an overall nice thing to do so he shouldn’t be an asshole.

He does almost fall off his chair though and then he feels a lot less nice when Pansy dramatically rolls her eyes at him and mutters, “dirty drunkard,” under her breath while she hoists him back up with Cassiopeia.

They end up hoisting him all the way into Draco’s office where the blond is actually very busy-looking behind his desk writing in his notebook and he looks up and blinks in a very pretty manner Ron is sure of it except he can’t make out most of what Draco’s face looks like right now.

“Fix him, there’s no fun in it if only one of us is drunk!” he can’t see Pansy’s face but it sure sounds like she’s pouting, the ridiculous woman, and he wants to tell her just so except he stumbles over his own tongue and words don’t make it out.

He’s pretty sure Draco is moving and he goes to tell him not to except he’s vaguely aware that all he does is make a strange gurgling sound. Then when he’s back he’s suddenly very close and very blurry which is very weird.

Draco makes him drink pumpkin juice and at first he’s really damn happy about it except he realises too late that that little Slytherin is sneaky as fuck and he starts sobering as the potion he got slipped takes effect and he just feels really kind of flat about everything, because now he’s forced to remember how stupid George was being to him earlier.

“Wauw, you guys are no fun,” he’s feeling petulant but tries to sound mean instead because he’s a grown-up, he shouldn’t be sounding like a child anyway, “can’t a guy get sloppy drunk?”

There’s a very stern look on the blond’s face as he puts the cup on the side table. He continues looking at Ron as if he already knows the answer, but then eventually decides to enlighten him, sighing as he says, “they were worried. You didn’t text saying you’d be late.”

What a stupid concept, Ron wants to think, because that’s easier than admitting that it is kind of sweet, so instead he grounds out, “I’m not a baby,” because he’s not and he doesn’t have a curfew and though being worried about feels nice he also is an adult who makes smart choices.

At least, most of the time.

Or half the time. Definitely half the time his choices are smart.

“No one is implying you’re a baby,” he rolls his eyes and it’s almost exactly the same way Pansy did earlier, as if they were actually twins, separated at birth, “babies don’t text.”

He doesn’t want to smile because he’d been nicely buzzed not thinking about anything related to family and Draco with his magical potion skills took that from him but then he can see how there’s a smile lurking around his mouth and he looks so proud of his own stupid joke so Ron kind of has to smile, really, he can’t not.

Draco settles down across from him, and for the first time Ron seems to realise that he’s not wearing his suit, like he usually does when he’s working in his study. He’s wearing an oversized sweater with tight sweats underneath and all of a sudden he very casually remembers how Pansy and Cassiopeia had been in their sleeping gowns and when his eyes fall on his watch he realises it’s two in the morning and every single one of them stayed up to wait for him. He doesn’t want to check his phone; he knows there will be panicked messages from Cassiopeia and perhaps even a missed phone call from Draco and an insane amount of private messages from Pansy and he’ll feel guilty because he was so busy having a pity party that he forgot about these people who do actually care about him, regardless of their lack of blood tie.

He doesn’t need to be asked, because there’s a look in Draco’s eyes he’s grown to recognise as the, “you may not want to talk but you will and you know it so spill your secrets like the lil’ bitch you are” look.

And he does, spill them, all over the plush carpet and he tries to catch them with his fingers but they slip in between the cracks and before he knows it there’s words spilling from his lips and it’s all these thoughts that he’s had for years but never said aloud and he doesn’t feel silly about it despite half of them being quite petty and childish.

He talks about how the twins always picked on him as a child and how they’d changed his favourite teddy bear into a spider which was the cause of his sometimes nearly crippling arachnophobia and when he says it Draco doesn’t even laugh, like everyone does when he tells the story. And then he says they never played with him, only used him as the butt of the joke and when he was interested in Quidditch they would never teach him and even after Charlie had told him how to ride a broom they would never want to play with him until he was much older. And then when he was in Hogwarts and joined Gryffindor he thought they’d be proud of him but it only lasted for about a second because then Harry Potter joining was a much bigger deal and even after he helped locate Ginny in second year no one ever gave him a pat on the back. They hated Scabbers and were happy to see him go and they gave the Marauders Map to Harry even though they knew he would have shared it if they had given it to him instead, and then later they thought he was an idiot for having a fight with Harry and never supported him in that either.

He talks about when Harry’s godfather died and how brains had attacked him and how they never got over that – despite the fucking guts it took to get him to the Ministry of Magic in the first place and he talks about how his brothers never seem to see past all his failures.

When he talks about Fred he almost cries but it’s more out of aggravation than anything else because it’s been a long time and he probably has barely any tears left to cry about the matter, he couldn’t stop crying for weeks at first.

He says, “I don’t want to be angry with him,” and he’s not sure if he means Fred or George but probably he means both, “he’s my brother and I love him. But I also feel like he’s never treated me fairly.”

After that he doesn’t say anything anymore, because he feels like maybe he’s been talking for too long already. All this time Draco has been sitting there not judging him and it kind of amazes him every time how he never interrupts, never objects, he is literally not invested in defending anyone if it’s not Ron. Because that’s what he’s always doing though, always validating Ron’s thoughts and emotions and he doesn’t know how to put in words how grateful that makes him feel.

When he speaks next, he reaches out a hand so that he can brush it gently atop Ron’s knee in what feels like the gentlest, purest gesture ever, “whatever happened between you and your brother can no longer be fixed. It’s okay to be angry with him,” and when Draco says so, he believes it, too, because he knows there is no reason for him to lie about this, “he is your brother and he treated you unfairly. One does not exclude the other, and your feeling are no less valid because of it,” his voice is infinitely gentle in the quiet room, and when Ron takes Draco’s hand he lets him, squeezes it encouragingly, “regarding George however, I would suggest you talk with him if you wish. If you don’t mind the current situation, you don’t need to address it. It’s up to what you want to do.”

He feels stupid for how good hearing those words feel and he thinks maybe Draco knows it too because he doesn’t let go of his hand, even when he feels his ears becoming red with embarrassment. It feels good having someone who trusts him to handle his own life implicitly. Not a single thing Draco says implies that he somehow knows better than Ron what he needs, and he’s always just guiding him to trusting himself and it’s kind of weird and really nice too.

Eventually he nods, and he doesn’t feel like he needs to make a decision right away anymore. Instead he holds Draco’s hand and then when there’s a twitch in his face that looks like a repressed yawn he feels himself smiling, and he wants to, this time.

“I’m sorry for worrying you,” he says before he can stop himself, and he kind of expects Draco to make a noise or brush it off but instead he strokes his thumb over his knuckles and then smiles a little wider, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

And with that, he feels even more okay.

***

Chapter Text

Number sixteen: Potter and the Dancing Piñatas

He sleeps very well that night, and he doesn’t feel like he needs to turn his back to the family photo anymore. He feels like maybe it’s okay to have a fight sometimes, and at least he now knows what George thinks of him, and there’s a lot of things that have been said that he never thought of and that now can be discussed.

There’s a letter waiting for him on his desk and someone has folded his jacket over his desk chair and put a plate of crown-shaped pancakes next to his comic books and an origami crown that he knows Cassiopeia made is sitting next to it. There’s a note that is signed with a deep red kiss which he knows to be Pansy’s reading “don’t worry babe made these” and the word “babe” is scratched out a couple of times and in the blond’s graceful handwriting it says “Draco” and he feels tenderness tug at his heartstrings.

The pancakes are really delicious and he’s not sure if that’s sentimentality speaking or his actual taste buds but he’s guessing it’s a bit of both. He reads his mother’s letter while he has breakfast and by the end of it, he feels nerves in his stomach instead of wonderful pancakes because she wants him to host a dinner party this week so that the family can meet his roommates and see his new apartment.

Which he knows is probably a lie because they never hosted dinner parties at his previous apartment, and his mother has never shown interest in his roommates before. He suspects Harry is behind this, mostly because he’s the only one who frequently talks to Percy since they sometimes work together at the Ministry, and Percy is exactly the kind of person to make a big deal out of this whole thing in the first place.

After sending his friend a text message and then calling Cassiopeia – it goes to voicemail – he decides that if they have to have a family dinner he is going to have to bring the news to them gently. So he decides to make a nice meal for them to enjoy together tonight, and he sets out for the shopping after a shower and getting dressed.

Cassiopeia gets home first and he literally has to swat her away she is that impatient to get her hands on his boeuf bourguignon and from the look on her face he knows he’s done a good job. Half an hour later Pansy and Draco waltz in, the raven head peeking around the corner of the door first before she gives a sigh of relief, “thank Merlin!” and upon spotting Ron she spontaneously dumps the takeaway container she’s carrying in the garbage.

They have a delicious Pinot Noir with their dinner and chatter in perfect ease – it feels like it’s been ages since they all sat down to dinner together, and Ron cannot stop grinning at how nice this feels, having these people with him and listening to Pansy’s snarky responses to her co-worker’s complaints and offering a sympathetic smile when Cassiopeia whines about how horrible her meeting went.

Through it all there’s Draco sitting across from him, corner of his mouth quirked up into a smile and long fingers playing with the stem of his glass and every time their eyes meet it’s like his heart is smiling too and it feels like the realest thing he’s ever felt.

When they’ve all finished he refills his glass with more wine and then hesitates, before bravely saying: “so… my family is coming over for dinner.”

Cassiopeia nods in understanding next to him, finishing her own wine while Pansy just kind of frowns at the both of them in confusion, “that’s a thing you do?” is what she asks, surprise colouring her voice.

“Don’t you?” Ron frowns too because he has been living under the assumption that family dinners is just a thing everyone does, and having family over to have dinner at your own house is a thing you therefore do, too.

“My parents live in France and the Parkinsons are dickheads,” Draco shrugs his shoulders and Pansy clinks the rim of her glass against his to show her agreement, “though I suppose the other day counts as having family over…”

He doesn’t need to elaborate for them to know he means the night they had half of former Slytherin house over and dancing on their couch, but Pansy interjects by saying, “yeah but all we do is get sloppy drunk!” just as Cassiopeia pipes up excitedly, “oh we can do a theme night! Drink sangria and make little appetizers!”

Ooh!” he is definitely liking the idea of alcohol – positive he will not survive the night without any – and he visibly perks up at the prospect, “I can make special spiked sangria for us so we can get sloppy drunk!”

At this Pansy and Draco share a look that he misses because for former Slytherins they are still quite sneaky and they have the kind of stealthy relationship that allows them to have entire conversations with just a mere glace shared between them.

“And maybe we can lace the appetizers so everyone falls asleep and just passes out for most of the night—“ Cassiopeia looks increasingly worried at his words and she interrupts before he can finish the thought with a stern, “Ron, do you even want your family to come over?”

He makes a face, “of course not Cas, you know how they get when they’re together.”

He has no qualms admitting it to these people because if he doesn’t tell them willingly now Pansy will probably do something horrible to him in his sleep and figure it out anyway or Cassiopeia will lure him into drinking more wine and push him down onto Draco’s patient-couch, and either way they’ll find out he loves his family, but that that doesn’t mean he needs to want them to come over.

Cassiopeia rolls her eyes, “they’re not that horrible—“ but that’s not really fair because she knows exactly how horrible they can be so she should be on his side, he’s sure of it.

“My mother gave you an hour-long speech about your hair,” he answers dryly, and her brows scrunch together as she twirls her fingers through said locks, as if remembering the badmouthing they’ve received.

“Yes, but—“

“Wait, Weasley,” Pansy takes a really big gulp of her wine – because the kind of person she is would just preferably drink that shit by the bottle and she only uses a glass to indulge her friends, mostly – and then her eyes turn to slits as she focuses on Ron, who immediately feels a dread settle in his throat, “is this about us? Are they coming over here to meet us?”

Ron doesn’t know what to say to that because strictly speaking no, that’s not what it had said in the letter, but probably, knowing his mother and remembering what George had said, yes, they are coming over to see the spectacle that is Ronald Weasley living together with two Slytherins – and not just any Slytherins, either, a former Slytherin Queen and a former Death Eater.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Draco says this after a heavy pause and then everyone just kind of stares at him as if he’s grown an extra head which Ron wouldn’t mind, really, except that he hasn’t.

“No you don’t!” Pansy glares at her best friend now and Ron’s just glad those eyes are no longer spearing into his very soul, “they’re going to be mean to you Draco, come on,” she takes another sip of her wine, simmering down only when her eyes meet Draco’s cool ones, “can we just not do this stupid thing? I love sangria but not if it’s used to hide thinly veiled Death Eater jibes.”

It’s stupid because Ron hadn’t exactly thought about it like that before, simply because he had been too worried about what to cook and when to have his family over to realise that they’re not exactly known for not expressing their opinion and suddenly he remembers how Ginny had gotten drunk last Christmas and done a Draco-the-bouncing-ferret re-enactment and how George had nearly peed himself laughing and…

“She’s right,” he realises it just as he says it, because actually, having his family over for dinner in his new apartment is probably the worst thing to do, ever.

“Yeah, no,” to his surprise the blond shakes his head resolutely, “she’s not,” he says very firmly, ignoring Pansy spluttering beside him, “we’re all adults,” and that’s technically true but most of his relatives don’t really act like adults, at all times, “you moved into a new place and you are having your family over for dinner. This is completely normal, and we are all going to be supportive of this because that is what good friends do.”

Cassiopeia starts making cooing noises and reaches out to squish the blond’s cheeks between her fingers adoringly. Pansy finishes her glass in one drink, refills it and admits, “I guess it would be nice to see what a functioning family looks like.”

Now Ron is not too sure about whether or not his family actually counts as a “functioning” family in the strict meaning of the phrase but he supposes they do better than some, and from the way Pansy makes gagging noises every time her mother calls, he’s pretty sure they do better than the Parkinsons, at least.

So on Wednesday night he divides oranges, apples, bananas, kiwis, mangos and strawberries between two punch bowls, and adds three bottles of white from Pansy’s collection to each. In the one he puts a splash of umeshu that Cassiopeia’s mother made and brought on her last visit to the UK, and in the other he puts what is left of the bottle and he tells himself that it’s okay to lace your own drink, even if you’re only doing it because the idea of facing your relatives sober is a depressive one. Lastly, he adds some soda to get some sparkle going, and then he uses his wand to chill the two punch bowls.

He wakes up to Cassiopeia framing the pictures he got developed the other day and decorating the frames with sunflowers before putting them around the flat. By the time he’s gotten showered she’s started on decorating the house with bright coloured ribbons using only her wand while she’s reading a magazine, sipping coffee. There’s dancing mini piñatas in the air and she’s playing salsa music from the living room. It looks like the start of a great party but he also really wants to start drinking the sangria already.

To calm his nerves he goes through the shared rooms in the house to make sure they don’t need to do extra cleaning or hide anything scandalous, and he smiles every time he comes across one of the pictures. She put most of them in the dining room because she too, agreed that it was far too bare, and there are pictures of the four of them eating there, waving their forks at him as they pass by, and a still of their clinking wine glasses, and of Cassiopeia with her mother and father eating sushi and dumplings and of Draco in what looks like France having a croissant with his mother, which he figures Cassiopeia got developed, and then a lot of pictures of the food they’ve had so far too, from food in restaurants to food Ron prepared for them and it kind of warms his heart, like a little surprise Cassiopeia prepared for him.

In the living room she put the frames with their group pictures on it next to the television, in the book closet and on the side-table, and there are pictures of their friends and baby pictures of the four of them – he has to stop himself from laughing at how absolutely devastating Pansy looked as a child – but there is one specifically that Ron still hasn’t seen that he was actually kind of looking forward to seeing.

“Where did you—“ he comes back into the kitchen to see her nodding her head into the direction of his bedroom and winking, and he feels the blush start at the top of his ears.

He spots it sitting on his drawer immediately, next to his family picture and their group picture and the picture with Harry and Hermione. Their chests are bare, and Draco’s sternum and cheekbones are glowing in the light of the colourful decorations flying above their heads. Ron doesn’t remember who took the picture, but it doesn’t really matter either because they only have eyes for each other, clinking their goblets together and standing close as they talk. Even as Ron looks right at his own image, hand brushing down Draco’s pale arm as they laugh together, he is amazed at how comfortable they look, in that moment, smiles wide and gazes locked.

Cassiopeia decorated the frame with sunflowers and yellow roses and Ron watches at his small photo-self interact with small photo-Draco for a couple of minutes before heading back into the kitchen with the image still in his mind.

They go shopping together because they’re hosting ten people that night and they’ve never hosted ten people before so Ron is feeling a little bit more nervous than he usually would – that is without taking into account the fact that they’re his family, which just makes it a billion times scarier because all family events are hosted by his mother, never anyone else.

Cassiopeia is a total champion about it, and she helps him carry the bags by putting them in her magical purse, and she’s always reminding him of “we don’t have spices for the salsa,” and “you’re touching an eggplant Ron,” which is an overall friendly thing to do before he forgets to buy spices or gets some funny looks from the crazy cat lady shopping in the next aisle.

Back home she helps mostly by listening to everything Ron says with extreme caution because she’s no good at cooking in general but she is an excellent assistant when she’s not off dancing to the music and almost chopping up her own fingers. They make an odd little pair but then Ron is also just very grateful to have someone so dedicated to his cause by his side, and while they wait for the oven to heat he does a little dance with her and they laugh and he almost forgets that he’s about to do this really scary thing; have his family over.

Pansy comes home exactly half an hour before the guests arrive which is just really weird because Ron is almost one hundred percent sure that she had been planning on coming in about an hour late, miss all the chitchat but stay for the food.

“You’re home early,” he says as he takes out the morsels of fried black pudding – she’s wearing ridiculously high heels again and she makes a face of which he’s not sure what it means.

“No googly eyes Weasley,” she scolds as she takes off her coat, “I was planning on coming home late,” she confirms his suspicions with a deep sigh and continues dramatically, “but Draco is stuck in surgery and he swore that if I didn’t act supportive he would dye all my shoes permanently orange, which,” there’s an even deeper sigh and when their eyes lock she narrows hers, “I don’t doubt for a moment, so next time you see him be sure to tell him what time I got here and how presentable I was looking, got it?”

She does a spin to show off her red cocktail dress which in itself is a very cute thing to do but her eyes are still set on will murder if tempted to so Ron keeps his mouth shut about her twirling and instead give her his most grateful look, “Parkinson, I adore you.”

She sticks out her tongue as if the idea repulses her, but he sees a pink tinge flush her cheeks which isn’t caused by her makeup. He offers her and Cassiopeia a glass of the spiked sangria and if either of them notice that the bowl looks particularly less full than it did the day before they don’t mention it and he’s not drunk enough yet to give it away.

Pansy sips from her cup gently at first, and then her eyes widen and she whistles sharply, “oh Weasley, you do adore me!” she remarks before taking a bigger drink, to which everyone laughs.

They finish the last preparations and then Ron and Cassiopeia go to change – when they come back Pansy is starting on her second cup of sangria and she just kind of shrugs unapologetically, then winks lewdly at the blonde when she reveals the back of her dress is completely see-through.

It isn’t long before there’s a ruckus at the front door and Ron has to take a deep breath and another sip of his cup before he can open the door with a smile.

It’s to no one’s surprise that Percy is too busy with his ministry job to attend but Bill’s scarred face greets him first and he kind of holds his oldest brother in an awkward but warm embrace for a couple of moments because he hasn’t been this happy to see anyone in ages. Bill says something about Draco and Fleur writing letters sometimes and when she heard Ron had moved into the same flat she had been excited and they both kept waiting for an invitation to come except that when it didn’t it had been the blond that told them about the small get-together. Ron is a little embarrassed but mostly surprised and he feels blessed, because Shell Cottage is a whole way away so he’d never thought Bill would even be able to make it – which is why he hadn’t invited him in the first place – but of course Draco had somehow magically taken care of everything.

He blushes at the thought too which makes Bill laugh because he’s mistaking it for embarrassment and then Harry comes in next and hugs him too, and he whispers a, “he must be a Keeper” in his ear which causes him to blush further under all the teasing.

Ginny and George are a whole lot less impressed by his new living arrangements but he gets a hug from his sister anyway because despite everything she loves him and she’s missed him and George shakes his hand and he’s not sure if everything’s okay again but it’s not as messed up as it seemed before, anyway.

Except then Ginny spots Pansy and she goes, “Parkinson. I haven’t seen you since you were escorted back to the dungeons,” which is probably a lie because Pansy did actually re-do her seventh year and she looked really pale while doing it too which makes Ron think that she probably did a whole lot of evaluating her own choices during that time and he’s kind of angry and kind of scared too because although not as scary as he originally thought, she is still very scary.

“Weasley, did you get a haircut? Looks good,” is what she says instead – and for a moment Ron is sure he’s gone deaf – but then she offers his sister a cup of sangria and Harry and Ron share a look because they’ve both seen her spike drinks before.

Except Ginny drinks and nothing happens and just like that the world goes on.

Everyone gets a glass and then they spend a lot of time walking around all the rooms and introducing them to their plants, “Draco named this one Severus because he is a sap but I named this one Hiss Hiss Motherfucker because Cassiopeia is a fucking idiot,” and they have to bat his father away from the game consoles, “no please mister Weasley—no don’t poke it with your wand,” and there’s a lot of sounds of awe when they introduce the bathroom, “Draco and I renovated because your son has really long legs,” and overall it’s not insanely horrible. His mom has so many comments about the fact that they keep their owls in the living room for most of the time and George is just confused about why everything looks so muggle-ish but Cassiopeia just deadpans, “we have dancing pinatas,” and that kind of finishes that conversation.

Ginny spends a lot of time looking at their pictures and clucking her tongue but Harry just watches baby Pansy slam her moving plush unicorn into the floor and then continues to laugh very long and hard which causes said Slytherin to poke him very brutally in his sides which makes him laugh even harder and so no one really notices the sounds of disapproval.

Bill admires a lot of Draco’s handiwork around the flat, from his built wooden shelves to the polished pots and the small frames. When they’ve returned to the kitchen, Harry presents them with a very expensive bottle of honeyed mead which he claims is for Draco to which Pansy pouts, “why don’t I get expensive mead?”

Harry blushes a bit when he explains, “you didn’t introduce me to a healer whose wife is a psychologist,” and most people don’t even understand what he means but Ron has to grin because he feels so proud of his friend, even as he looks mortified, scratching his neck as he admits, “we met last week and she’s amazing,” but Cassiopeia then hugs him tightly and his awkwardness passes.

He puts the bottle of mead on the counter and Pansy goes to say, “I’m sure he’ll be home soon,” except that before she can finish her sentence the front door creeps open.

They see his back before anything else because he’s opening the door with his elbow, so it appears. Ron is confused but also happy because Draco is wearing an indigo two-piece suit and his jacket falls really prettily over the curve of his hip but then…

There’s blood all over his front and on his hands.

They all just stand there and stare.

When he realises they’re all waiting for him in the kitchen his eyes widen comically, the first words coming out of his mouth, “I apologise for being late—“ but then Ron kind of shrieks, “are you okay?!” and he sounds very distressed.

He looks confused for a moment before he realises he’s covered in blood and then he rushes to explain, “oh, no, the blood’s not mine.”

Pansy is unimpressed, “yeah, perfectly ominous sounding babe,” to which the blond rolls his eyes.

“There was a car accident and I had to perform CPR until the ambulance arrived,” he says this as if this all makes perfect sense except that most people look confused and or horrified, and he’s holding out his hands kind of awkwardly, not willing to stain their furniture which just makes everything a lot weirder than it should be, “I’m so sorry, my surgery ran late.”

“It’s fine,” and it is, because Draco saves lives, Ron awkwardly holds him by the elbow and guides him to the bathroom, “are you sure you’re not hurt?”

“I’m fine,” he sounds very reassuring and there’s sternness in his eyes which calms Ron slightly, “I just need a quick wash, I’ll be right back,” and he gives them a nod before making an escape to the bathroom.

Everyone keeps silent until Pansy just kind of waves her hand around, laughing, “don’t worry. This happens to him all the time. He goes to France and the poor sod isn’t there for five whole minutes before a witch at the flooport stabs herself with a fork.”

There’s just a lot of people making a various degree of disgusted faces as It’s not exactly the most reassuring thing to say but then Cassiopeia ushers them into the dining room and carries the bowl of punch with her as she goes and Ron is infinitely grateful for the distraction. He offers to bring Draco some sangria and Pansy nods as she makes the cutlery dance out in front of her with her wand on the way to follow Cassiopeia.

In the bathroom the blond has just stripped himself of his outer jacket and shirt, and is busy washing his hands under the sink when Ron enters. He quickly closes the door behind him and then just kind of leans into it as he watches a half-naked Draco Malfoy coat his hands and underarms in soap before rinsing off. The colour of blood against his pale skin and against the tattoo is odd but Ron can not stop staring at it, it’s stupid. He goes to apologise again but before he can utter the words Ron holds out the cup of spiked sangria.

Draco blinks at him a little dumbly, still a little dazed by the past events, but then he lets Ron bring the cup to his lips and as he swallows his eyes turn to slits.

“This is not regular sangria,” he accuses teasingly, to which Ron just grins and shrugs his shoulders.

He feels a kind of tenseness, as if things are getting really real and he’s not sure if he can handle any more. Seeing Draco relaxes him though, in a way that nothing else can, and he wants to hide behind the boy’s body or in his chest and stay there for the rest of his – what would surely be a very happy – life.

Draco doesn’t seem to get all of that because Ron doesn’t actually say any of it, he just kind of leans in very clumsily and presses his lips very hard into the pink ones. His hands grasp onto Draco’s trousers and the blond is trying very hard to keep his wet hands out of the way and still lean into the embrace and everything about it is just a little lacking, but Ron still feels as if he’s putting his heart into that kiss and it’s magical.

He leaves the bathroom a little bit more flustered than he probably should be, and then just kind of hides in the kitchen to finish off the Flamenquines and shrimp while Pansy and Cassiopeia continue setting the table. They come back to help him carry all the food out, setting out plates filled with stuffed tomatoes, barbequed mini ribs, spicy sausage tortilla and roasted bread.

They are just about to turn around and get the rest of the plates when the silver platter with black pudding comes flying in, followed by the Flamenquines, shrimp, mini paella pans and shrimp fritters. Last is Draco, his hair still a little moist from his quick shower and wearing a silver-seam linen shirt and black jeans. Cassiopeia lets out a small sound of surprise as the first plate settles down on the table and then sighs in relief when she spots Draco, “I keep on forgetting how good your none-verbal wandless magic is.”

His sleeves are pushed up above his elbows and Ron can tell almost everyone at the table is staring at where the Dark Mark used to be but luckily his dad says, “so, mister Malfoy, I heard you work at a muggle hospital? Can you tell me what those little bags are for? The ones on wheels that they tape to your arm? They seem awfully inconvenient!” and then the blond has to busy himself with explaining how they’re not actually taped to arms at all but connected to veins and most people make a face but Arthur is looking at Draco as if he hung the stars in the sky.

They all start filling their plates with food as Arthur revels in all the muggle words the blond is using on him and Molly says, “it must be handy to have a live-in healer,” which Ron, rationally knows has absolutely nothing to do with him and who he is as a person but it’s still kind of hurtful to hear his mother talk proudly of someone who she doesn’t even know or like yet. It’s irrational but it stings.

Draco however just shrugs his shoulder, “in all honesty, Ron brings the most to our make-shift family,” and Pansy doesn’t even have a teasingly snide remark waiting, she just nods avidly.

“What? Me?” his voice is kind of high because he feels a little put-on and he drops one of the shrimp not on Harry’s plate but on the table instead.

The blond laughs as he catches the shrimp and then deposits it on Ron’s own plate, taking the tortilla Cassiopeia passes to him next.

“That coque-au-vin you made was life changing,” Draco says next, and Pansy waves her hand at him from across the table, chirping enthusiastically, “if Voldy poo had gotten his hands on that, he’d never have started that first war!”

Harry laughs at that, and Cassiopeia nods as she takes some of the black pudding, “they make excellent points. If it wasn’t for you we would all just kind of never have dinner together probably because we’d all just eat out every day,” she shrugs her shoulders as if it’s not such a big deal but her eyes tell a different story because they’re full of tenderness when she looks over at him.

“Oh and those sweetcorn fritters!” Draco passes the shrimps over to Bill who gives him a broad smile as he takes them, “they got me through surgery,” he then continues to smile at Molly as he concludes, “I save lives, but Ron makes it worth living.”

That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about him, Ron is quite sure, and he can’t do anything else but just kind of stare at Draco as he takes some of the bread and a stuffed tomato and continues eating and he’s aware of how other people keep talking but it doesn’t really seem to matter anymore. Draco Malfoy thinks he’s the reason worth living.

Pansy murmurs, “Weasley is our King, he made us cocque-au-vin, Weasley is our King,” purposely mispronouncing vin as she mutters under her breath and then Cassiopeia bursts out laughing, Harry thumping his shoulder into hers as he joins.

“Weasley aces anything, he even makes us union rings,” Ron glowers as the blonde continues singing in a louder voice, receiving raised brows from the other Weasleys, but that doesn’t deter her as she ends with a “that’s why we all sing, Weasley is our King!” together with Harry and Pansy.

He’s absolutely mortified by his friends, but Bill is laughing along with Draco and the way he sounds, so carefree and joyous just kind of resonates in his mind, this man thinks I’m the reason worth living, and he can’t get over it.

Pansy insists they all raise their glasses so they clink their sangria together and then continue chitchatting and eating in what turns out to be a very comfortable manner. He finds himself quite enjoying dinner – George doesn’t make a single snarky remark and his dad can’t stop asking questions about how muggle medicine works. Ginny is constantly casting looks towards Draco but she doesn’t say a word, and Pansy has got Bill hooked on a story about her family’s spell book which apparently contain numerous dubious curses.

His mother spends most of the time talking to Harry and he finds himself just enjoying the food and the company instead of chugging down sangria, as he had half-expected to. Bill keeps on making these little sounds and then giving Ron exaggerated winks over Draco’s shoulders, and it’s just incredibly flattering.

By the time they’ve finished everyone is patting their stomachs happily and Harry proposes they drink some of the fancy honeyed mead and for some reason Ron doesn’t quite comprehend his father is adamant that Pansy teach him how to Mario Kart.

The blond uses his none verbal wandless magic to gather the dirty plates and as she passes by on her way to follow the others Ginny grounds out, “prefer flowers over skulls now?” and Ron thinks he might have to break up a fight because his sister is fierce but Draco is also juggling a whole lot of dirty cutlery, except that he just smiles – with absolute stone-cold eyes and Ron’s heart breaks a little over how long it’s been since he’s seen that look and how he wished he would never have to see it again – and says, “I like plants too,” before continuing to bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen.

For a moment it’s just him and his sister then, and he’s not sure what to do or what to say, so he just kind of goes, “he has a canopy and always waters the succulents,” and then just kind of scrambles from the room before the floor can swallow him whole in embarrassment. Thankfully Harry is waiting for him with an extra glass of mead and Draco is perfectly oblivious, already following Cassiopeia and Molly out into the living room.

Pansy and Arthur are already in front of the television and she’s explaining the ways of the controller with his wand safely tucked away in her dress when Cassiopeia joins them, George watching in astonishment. He and Harry join Molly, Bill and Draco on the couch where they’re chatting about Bill’s kids and how Victoire misses Teddy.

“He was telling me how he misses her too the other day,” Harry says as he settles down, and then gives a nod in the blond’s direction, “and you. He feels awfully heartbroken that you’re back at work and he can’t stay over.”

Draco makes a sad face and Ron hums into his glass, “I could watch him while you’re at work. I don’t mind.”

He can feel the stormy eyes on him without even looking up, but before the blond can utter any words of thanks, his mother huffs, “you should be looking for a job!” a frown on her face.

His ears burn red in embarrassment and maybe if he’s being honest, anger too, and he’s not really sure what to even say to that – he has savings to last him, and he has desires, things he wants now, and what he doesn’t want is just another job he’ll do happily for one year and then half-heartedly for another three until he’s just going through the motions again, and feeling like he’s wasting his life away, again.

Before he can grumble at his mother however, Draco speaks gently, “sometimes taking time to think about what we want can help us make more permanently satisfying decisions,” he explains very patiently to Molly – in the same voice he uses in his office, too, reassuring and firm. Then, when he turns to look at Ron instead he smiles and maybe Ron loses his breath because his lips are so pink and he has little dimples in his cheeks and crinkles in the corner of his eyes, “I’m sure Teddy would love that. He’s been writing me letters about your pancakes,” and then, a little annoyed, “honestly, you spoiled him.”

You spoil him all the time!” Ron defends, because he cannot believe that he is being accused of spoiling Teddy by the man that buys him matching pyjamas, brooms he cannot ride yet and exotic pets he can’t all keep.

“He’s my cousin,” Draco reasons as if that gives him some sort of spoiling rights that Ron don’t get – it’s amusing too, but then George kind of snorts and suddenly it’s not that amusing.

“So you guys don’t mind Ron sitting around his ass all day?” he sounds ridiculously snide for such a lovely evening, honestly, and Ron feels it sting in his chest and then it reddens his ear and anger balls his fists.

Harry hisses, “George,” under his breath and then the blond just kind of calmly stares George down until his brother is obviously uncomfortable before saying, voice stone, “please be respectful, Ron just made you dinner,” and then, more gentle, he says, “owning a store is you dream, not Ron’s. He’s working on his own dreams now, and you should be supportive of that,” there’s a “or gtfo” there that isn’t said but the way Draco’s whole frame is tense and the way he’s kind of rigid and upright, like a snake preparing for attack, it’s all too clear.

And Ron is kind of mystified of how Draco can speak threats with his body so clearly when not even his balled fists are enough to scare off most people. The right posture of Draco Malfoy however, makes even grown men stutter, and that is indeed a sight to behold.

Never mind the fact that he hasn’t seen Draco this firm and fierce since back in fifth year with his stupid Inquisitorial badge on his robes, and it’s waking up things in the young teenager part of himself that he’s repressed for a very long time.

So he relaxes his fists without realising and then George just stares at him for what feels like ages before he murmurs, “okay,” and maybe Ron is hallucinating, that sounds perfectly plausible.

And then nothing eventful happens for the rest of the night, and Cassiopeia explains telephones to his dad in a way that he understands, apparently, because he’s asking everyone’s number and Pansy promises to “hook him up” – and Ron really hopes she means with a telephone – and his whole face just kind of lights up as he exclaims that he can now contact Ron much more easily so that they can talk about the mechanics of cars together.

He’s never bonded with his father about anything besides Quidditch, and it’s such a funny thought that he got to bond with his father thanks the Pansy and Draco’s elaborate gaming systems and their impeccable game preferences.

Bill takes home a whole lot of the leftovers with a promise that they will host the family next time, and he kisses Draco’s cheek – in a very Fleur-esque manner – and thanks him profoundly and it’s a very basic thing to do, but it warms Ron’s heart nonetheless. George hugs him too, albeit a little stiffly and then Ginny too, and it’s overall just not the worst night he’s ever had, and maybe it might rank up into his good-nights-list, even. Harry stays to have another glass of mead with them and Ron finds himself nodding off on the couch while his friend discusses his therapy with Draco and he’s a little bit fidgety as he does so, asking Draco about all the things she asked him and if it’s normal, but Draco is just all reassuring and soft tones and Ron imagines the boy to be a teeny tiny ant-sized baby, buzzing around in his head with his gentle voice, lulling him to sleep.

He wakes up just as he’s being put to bed and he feels the way his body hits the mattress more than anything else. Then there’s hands and when he opens his eyes Draco is putting him to bed properly, covering him with the blankets. Their eyes meet when he leans in to press a kiss to Ron’s temple, but he doesn’t hesitate – as if he hasn’t just been caught in the act – not even for a second, leaving the spot he kissed tingling.

“Thank you,” Ron says, and it’s not enough, it isn’t, really, because there’s much more he wants to say in there, much more that he wants to convey but there’s nothing else he can say, really, so he just kind of looks at the blond and how his cheekbones glister in the moonlight and just smiles.

“If you aren’t willing to fight for your passions, then what are you willing to fight for?” Draco says, and he smiles too, because he already knows.

 

***

Chapter Text

Number seventeen: Dial phone Drooling

In the morning when he finally wakes up and drags his ass out of bed, Cassiopeia is sitting by the kitchen island in nothing but her underwear, scrolling through her phone while she eats cereal. She hasn’t brushed her hair yet, and from the smell Ron is pretty sure she has sangria in her coffee mug.

“’Morning,” she greets cheerfully, fingers twirling the pink in her hair.

He hums back but only because he’s still a little tired and then he hugs her from behind, just because he can. She’s watching a video about cats on Instagram, and she shows him how scared they are of cucumbers before liking the video and then scrolling on to a picture of a naked plus size model in a fur coat.

He gets himself a mug of coffee and then joins her, watching her scroll through pictures on MagNow with his head on her shoulder. She gets to a selfie of Pansy and his father and he almost chokes on his drink because when did she even take that picture and why is it on the internet?

Cassiopeia writes a really saucy comment that has Ron’s ears burning and then when she continues scrolling there’s a picture of Harry, Pansy, Cassiopeia and Draco – his cheekbones shimmering in the lighting – with Ron sleeping in the background, centred. He is wearing a little sticker crown and his friends are making really stupid faces. The caption reads “our sleepiest King” and it has over thirty thousand likes.

He feels an overwhelming fondness, watching the pictures, and as he sips his coffee he thinks of how happy Draco makes him and how painful every moment apart appears to be. Even now he kind of wishes the blond was there next to him, drinking his own coffee and cheekily requesting chocolate-covered waffles. And he remembers where Draco kissed him the night before and how he had smiled at him like he already knew what Ron wanted anyway and if that’s the case then what is stopping Ron from asking him?

Because if anything, he knows now that going after things he wants is worth the trouble and if there’s anything he’s absolutely one hundred percent sure he wants, then it’s Draco as a more permanent fixture in his life. And that realisation is not as surprising as Ron might have thought it would be, it just kind of makes a lot of sense instead, and suddenly it feels stupid that he’s been worrying about it for so long.

“Is Draco here?” he tries to sound casual but there’s jittery Cornish pixies flying all around his stomach and he wonders if maybe it can be heard in the way he talks.

“He left for Saint Mungo’s already,” Cassiopeia stifles a yawn as she looks over at Ron.

“Oh, okay…” he takes a deep breath before he announces, “I’m going to ask him out on a date,” and it doesn’t sound so stupid when he says it out loud, either.

The blonde’s eyes widen almost comically and she straightens up all the way, “oh HELL YEAH!” she jumps off her chair excitedly, giving him a quick hug before continuing, “you go pack him some leftovers, I’m gonna get you some clothes! Oh I bet he’s going to love that maroon sweater and—“ she continues talking as she disappears into his bedroom.

He does as she told him to, simply because he hasn’t asked out a lot of people before and Cassiopeia probably knows exactly what she’s doing and Draco likes eating lunch so packing him some doesn’t sound like the worst idea ever. He is used to being wooed, and he imagines that if any of his past relationships ever came up to his door with food and a proposition his answer would have been a wholehearted “yes!”

As he gather the leftovers from the previous day Cassiopeia runs around the apartment holding out sweaters in front of him and then running back as she changes her mind and then comes back with a comb and then ends up ruffling his hair all over again.

She ends up dressing him in a maroon shirt and black slacks and then digs up his navy travel robes which she swears will go well with his outfit. She gives him one of her Japanese bento boxes too, a very beautiful dark red one with Fuji mountain painted on it in gold and then helps him pack the box into a beautiful white furoshiki her first girlfriend back in Japan gave to her.

He’s feeling so brave as he enters the floo. He imagines Dumbledore fondly granting 50 points to Gryffindor for “inane courage in the face of possible heartbreak” and some of the nerves just kind of melt away with that, because he almost died for Harry back when he’d only known him for a year, he can face heartbreak for Draco now, too.

Saint Mungo’s is as busy as ever, with several patients in rickety chairs waiting for treatment, and Healers swishing past the Welcome Witch as they come and go. At first he’s not sure where to go and he spends a couple of seconds just standing there feeling very self-aware all of a sudden, as if he’s been here before, furoshiki in hand, but then the Welcome Witch spots him and her face lights up.

She’s probably around Charlie’s age, and she has dark skin and black hair pulled back in a bun – when she waves him over her eyes light up, and although Ron is quite sure he’s never seen her before she treats him like they’ve known each other for years.

“Mister Weasley, it is such an honour,” a Chudley Cannons fan, he can tell straight away, “how can I—“ her smile falters all of a sudden and he wonders if maybe she’s noticed some stray toothpaste on his face, “oh of course, you must be here for your brother?”

What she says doesn’t make any sense so he just kind of repeats stupidly, “your brother?”

Your brother,” she clarifies, “they brought him in half an hour ago, he’s on the fourth floor.”

She indicates the general direction of where Ron remembers the stairs to be, but as he stumbles over to them in a sort of daze he can’t for the life of him remember what exactly the fourth floor is for.

There’s a big sign that says “spell damage” as he reaches said floor but he’s not feeling any less confused and then when he continues down the hall to where the private rooms are he encounters this really beautiful blond in lime green robes talking to another healer quite heatedly and then he kind of forgets about his brother for a moment because Draco Malfoy is right there and he’s going to ask him out on a date.

When he comes up to the room outside of which Draco is talking, he spots a glimpse of the wizard inside and then realises with a start that it’s Percy – except that he has what appears to be an old-fashioned rotary dial phone growing out of the side of his head – looking quite miserable, holding up the left side of his face with both arms.

Draco spots Ron right away and then kind of shushes the other healer before greeting the redhead kindly, “oh, Ronald, did the ministry notify you? I was expecting your mother.”

He’s just kind of staring at Percy because now the telephone appears to be ringing and the receiver goes to float up in the air as Percy makes an annoyed face.

“What is that thi—?” he goes to ask but then realises he doesn’t really care, all that much, because he had a reason coming here and he refuses to lose track, “no wait, Draco, I came here to see you,” the second healer raises his eyebrows, as if he doesn’t approve of people visiting friends in their work place, but he ignores this because Draco looks curious, and that’s good enough for him “do you have a moment?”

The two healers exchange a look and then the slightly chubbier man nods and leaves them to it, excusing himself as he enters Percy’s room. Ron sets a hand on the blond’s arm so he can take him over to a piece of wall and then when they’re both leaning into it he realises they’re kind of close and that he has no idea what to say.

I like you, he thinks he wants to say, but it sounds stupid, even just from the way it’s bouncing around in his head; something teenagers say, not something a grown-up should resort to. It sounds absolutely silly when he thinks about everything that’s happened and everything they’ve done and every time they were there, together, and Draco had his back, no questions asked, no doubt in his mind. Every time he’d come close to the edge only to have the pale hand pull him back.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said yesterday,” he doesn’t really think about it, not now at least because there’s words jumbling together and coming out of his mouth and he’s not sure he’s supposed to be saying anything, “and there’s actually a whole bunch of things I’ve always been fighting for, besides my passions but I thought maybe it’s time for that to end because,” he feels his face fluster and then spontaneously loses his whole train of thought when Draco reaches out to pat his shoulder soothingly, “I mean what I mean is, would you, maybe, you know, go out on a date with me?”

Draco continues watching him as if he hasn’t spoken at all, pensive look and encouraging eyes. Ron isn’t sure if he should repeat the question or if Draco is even here, at all, or somewhere lost in his own thoughts of patients and woodwork – or whatever the Malfoy daydreams about.

Then, quite promptly, he blinks, staring at Ron as if he’s seen a ghost. Oh.

“I mean if you don’t want to—“ he starts to make up some sort of excuse because the blond looks like he might be ill and he’s not sure if he is equipped at handling sick blonds at all, but then Draco’s nails dig into his shoulder a little too hard and he—

“No!” and then when Ron’s face falls, “I mean yes! I mean,” he drops his hand and brushes down the front of his robes. The lime green should be hideous, Ron is sure he’s always hated the healer’s robes before, but on Draco it looks soothing. His gentle fingers remove some stray lint and then when he looks back up he looks determined, “yes. I would like to go on a date with you.”

Oh.

“Oh,” he ends up saying it out loud too, but Draco doesn’t look too bothered by it – instead he smiles, something amusing, and then indicates Percy’s room, “let’s check on your brother now,” and Ron is quite sure he’s lost up in the stars, he doesn’t really care, because Draco said yes.

Except when they enter the room Percy is looking possibly malicious – granted, there is a huge telephone growing out of the side of his head – and for no apparent reason his anger seems to be directed at the blond who hangs the moon and stars in Ron’s night sky.

“I already told you,” Percy growls as they approach the bed, “I refuse to be treated by some lowlife Death Eater,” and it’s stupid because Ron has almost forgotten how that’s still a thing, you know, with Harry and Draco exchanging therapy stories and Fred begrudgingly hugging him and Ginny making no snarky remarks and Bill asking for woodwork tips, he’d kind of forgotten, how they all hated each other all those years ago.

And it seems like a lifetime ago, too, another life altogether, young and reckless and not fully grown, and it’s almost more like a bad dream now. A bad dream which gave him his two best friends and a couple of scars, but other than that, not more than a mere memory.

“Mister Weasley, please,” the other healer looks a little pale to his face as Draco just stands there, stock still, almost like a statue and Ron kind of worries if he might feel cold to the touch, too, “Healer Malfoy is the best we have in spell damage.”

“I bet he is,” Percy bites, and Ron is pretty sure it’s supposed to be an insult except it doesn’t really translate as such, because Hogwarts was ages ago and sure Malfoy did hex some things back then but he was never there for the clean-up, “Ronald, you tell them, I refuse to be treated by this slimy little ferret.”

Ron just kind of stares now, too, because there is no way in hell he’ll be saying any such thing. He looks at Draco and how vacant his eyes are and at the other healer who is balling his fists trying to retain some of his self-control and he figures, as he is the only non-professional in the room, he’s the only one who can let go.

“The war was years ago!” he starts, and he surprises himself with how angry he sounds because sure he’s angry but he hasn’t been angry in ages and it’s just a little daunting how loud he is, and how Percy backs away from him instantly, “you’re being an asshole to a man who was just a scared teenager back then, and sure he made some messed up choices but may I remind you that you abandoned us for years because you were being a traitorous buffoon! Draco Malfoy is trying to save your ass, so get that thing treated you pompous little dipshit!” as soon as he’s said it he feels the anger drain from him and he even musters a really sweet smile when he turns to face Draco – he reaches out and squeezes his hand, and then he doesn’t want to let go, “I’ll wait for you outside,” and he indicates the furoshiki and nods to the other healer and then leaves the room, leaving his brother seemingly spell-bound with how stunned he is.

Removing the telephone is a whole messy ordeal that Ron wishes he could stop watching, but he finds himself staring through the window as if hypnotised. Draco has to perform a whole bunch of spells before he and the healer spend ages swaddling the telephone with a yellow potion and then – just when Ron thinks he’s seen it all – they have to drain fluorescent green puss from the receiver, catching it in big containers and he has to turn away because it just keeps coming.

When Draco comes back out of the room there’s puss covering the front of his robes and he just kind of makes a face at Ron and disappears into the next room. Ron follows him, in what turns out to be a room filled with potions, cleaning supplies, and a long row of sinks.

He opens up the tap for Draco and helps him clean the goo off his hands gently, the blond giving him a lopsided grin as he says, “forget dating, we should get married! Pompous little dipshit, that’s going on the wedding invitations,” and his face is just glowing he’s smiling so wide.

Ron feels the tip of his ears burn with embarrassment at being praised, but he’s smiling too, he’s so happy. He watches as Draco shrugs off his stained robes and dumps them in a hamper, only for them to disappear immediately and then reappear hanging off the wall behind it seconds later, completely clean. When he’s gotten redressed properly, they go up to the visitor’s lounge together to have their lunch.

They enjoy last night’s leftovers and easy banter and it’s funny how nothing has changed yet, not really. He doesn’t even feel very nervous at all, even when he says, “oh, what I said about Teddy yesterday, I meant it,” he nudges more black pudding on the blond’s plate to encourage him to eat more, “if you want him to come stay with us more often, I can take care of him too.”

Draco is halfway through cutting up a shrimp fritter when his hands start trembling slightly, nothing but pure gratitude on his face, “that would be great, thank you so much,” his eyes are sparkling with happiness and it kind of takes his breath away, because he did that, “he used to come over for weeks at a time, but work has been so hectic…” his voice turns a little quiet, almost embarrassed, and Ron doesn’t understand, “you’re a lifesaver.”

He says it like he means it, but there’s something else hiding there too. Something sad and depressing that feels like he’s failed, and Ron isn’t sure how to say he hasn’t so he just takes his hand and squeezes it, really tight, and it feels like Draco knows what he means anyway.

After they finish lunch it gets a little awkward when Ron goes to say goodbye and he realises that they’re going on a date and suddenly he’s not sure how to act, so he just kind of stupidly says, “okay, so I’ll see you Saturday morning at eleven!” in a very weird and strained way.

Amusement colours the blond’s voice as he points out, “Ronald, we live together,” which is true, yes, and there’s probably no way they won’t accidentally run into each other before Saturday morning but for some reason it doesn’t really process in Ron’s brain as he just kind of grabs onto a pale hand and shakes it heartily.

“Yes, well. Let’s meet in the kitchen then,” with those not-so-wise words he turns on his heel and goes back to where the floo is waiting for him.

He realises how very much like a prat he sounded as soon as he enters said floo and then he spends most of the morning moaning to Cassiopeia about how much of a dolt he’s been and he’s happy but also just feel generally very silly about everything. It doesn’t help that Cassiopeia keeps teasing him – despite the fact that he’s gone and done such a brave thing and actually received a yes from the most magical man he’s ever met – and he thinks maybe his ears are just going to stay permanently red.

They drink sangria together and Cassiopeia makes him retell the story half a dozen times just because one, she really dislikes Percy and loves the bit where puss comes out of his head, and two, not having attended Hogwarts herself she absolutely loves it when Ron showcases the bravery and loyalty his house is famous for.

She makes faces every time his brother’s name is mentioned and makes excited noises every time Draco is mentioned and it’s funny how biased she is but it just kind of makes Ron adore her even more. She offers to make him udon as a reward for how great he’s been and how generally happy she is that he’s finally gotten the answer to the question he’s been asking since he first shared his bed with the blond – except then she remembers she has absolutely never made udon before so she spends a long time talking to her mum, who had been about to prepare dinner herself,  and then she’s just jotting down a whole lot of Japanese Ron doesn’t understand anything of.

They go shopping together in China town where there’s a lot of supermarkets that sell ingredients from many Asian countries, including Japan, and Cassiopeia is constantly muttering to herself as she tries to remember the English name of the ingredients – Ron loves seeing her like this, because he knows what she’s like in the office; red lady suit and red lips with an almost painfully casual face as she rattles off speeches in English, then in Japanese, and then in English again. He knows what she’s like at office parties, high heels and a ninety degree bow with hands clasped in front of her body, funny with all the British customers and funny enough that even the Japanese clients have to hide their chuckles behinds their hands.

Now though, she is just another twenty-seven-year-old, far away from home and trying to recreate the image of it almost desperately, comfortable clothes and her mother’s recorded voice playing next to her ear as she makes sure she’s jotted down all the ingredients correctly. She is lacking now, used to her mother’s cooking and her mother’s guiding hand, and now she feels small again as she struggles to find English words she’s never had to use before.

It helps that the Japanese ingredients have the names written in Japanese on them too, and Ron tries to name as much of them as he knows from having used them before; there’s the udon noodles, most obviously, then there’s miso, soy sauce, and mirin, but also other stuff like dashi – “kelp” her dictionary claims but with one look at Ron’s face she just drops the bags into the shopping cart and moves on – and something which they both decide to call “fish paste”.

Back in the flat they both strip down to their underwear and drink more sangria and then Cassiopeia bosses Ron around as she watches him cook from her seat at the breakfast bar. She mutters stuff like, “Ron, sore ninai yo!” and then, “boil! No boil! I mean, don’t boil that!” and it’s too amusing. He generally just has the best time with her, and he just feels a really deep fondness for this girl that has been by his side for the past few years, always there to share the moment, whether with a tear or laughter.

They spend the rest of the day just generally enjoying each other’s presence and drinking sangria and if Pansy thinks it’s weird that they’re playing video games in their underwear she doesn’t mention it. He plans his date with Draco meticulously because he never does but he wants to impress this time, and the girls give him advice – most of which well-intended, though Pansy does give him suggestions such as “blindfold him and dump him in front of big Ben right before the clock strikes” which Ron is pretty sure he’s not meant to take seriously. They enjoy the udon together and Ron keeps a portion aside for when Draco comes home later and he thinks that maybe he should wait up and apologise for having been such an idiot earlier, but he feels himself dozing off in front of the television instead.

He hears the blond come in just a little after midnight and then when he hears him approach the living room he calls, “I left a bowl for you on the counter, did you—“ and then before he can finish Draco has gotten all up in his space.

His eyes are hooded and he looks a little tired, his hair ruffled and his robes wrinkled. There’s a smile on his face, lurking in the corner of his mouth as he hums, “you made me dinner,” and he sounds so hoarse Ron wonders if maybe he’s misunderstood, because that’s not usually how people sound discussing food. Except then there’s a “thank you,” pressing into his lips as the blond straddles him and then steals another kiss.

It becomes really hot really soon because there’s a lot of layers of robe to work through and he is aching to get his hands on some of that milky skin. The blond is simply melting in his lap, pushing as close as he can into the kiss. There’s a lot of shifting around and Draco’s lips find his neck and his fingers manage to struggle through the fabric to settle on a soft patch of skin near his stomach.

Draco pulls back slightly, his tongue leaving a sick trail behind Ron’s ear before murmuring, “should we not have sex before our first date?”

He can’t even think, let alone talk. He spends a really long moment just kind of panting in the space between their bodies and his hands are desperate where they’re feeling up the marble flesh and he never wants to quit.

“’m sure it’s fine,” he wrangles out and then Draco’s mouth is upon his again, humming approvingly into the kiss.

Maybe his body is on fire? He thinks his brain has surely melted – Draco’s tongue is so insistent and it’s so good, having him close like this, right up in his space. He kind of wants to keep him there forever, that would just be the best possible life, ever – where Draco Malfoy is always just writhing around in his lap, keening into his mouth.

“Mmm,” he hears, and then Draco pulls back slightly, “no, wait,” he tries to untangle himself, putting distance between their chests and Ron wants to whimper and pull him back in but he manages to resist, “we shouldn’t.”

“Yeah, okay,” it’s not okay but Ron finds himself blabbering because blabbering is better than thinking about where those lips have just been and how nice it had felt, “no, sure…”

Before he can finish his train of positive two-syllable-or-less answers the blond is back in his space, kissing him with even more ferocity. He shifts in his lap, uses his hands to pin Ron down beneath him and practically devours him – it’s too much, his hips are bucking and he thinks maybe he won’t ever be able to think straight again because Draco’s tongue is doing this swirly thing that feels divine.

“I mean it’s fine,” Draco mutters when they part briefly, shrugging his shoulders – before the redhead can agree with him, they’re kissing again. And it’s like electric, like all the lights have gone on in his body, like magic and tingling under his skin and—

He knows he’s pretty much just groping desperately now, because Draco’s thighs are strong in his hands and warm and comfortable and he wants to be much closer still.

Except then quite suddenly Draco just pulls back, stumbling to get away from the couch, “no okay, no. No,” he looks so stern, but his eyes are black with want – when their eyes lock he licks his lips and hesitates before scowling and promptly taking another step back, “okay, you,” there’s heat in his look, no matter how hard he tries to hide it, but he points at Ron as if putting the blame of the whole world on him, “you, you lock your bedroom door okay?”

Ron can only blink stupidly, very horny and very confused.

“I… what?” he’s uncomfortable in his jeans and even more so when he realises Draco is, too, and it seems really damn stupid that they are not still on top of one another, equally uncomfortable but very close to setting it straight.

“Don’t tempt me,” Draco accuses darkly, his voice but a growl – he turns around and goes to head out except that he stops suddenly. Ron manages to process what has just happened purely because Draco is wanting and that’s such a special thing, really, more so because he’s wanting for Ronald and that’s just… it’s just…

He’s grinning despite the loss of heat and friction and pretty pink lips against his own and Draco doesn’t even turn around but just scolds ominously, “and don’t be so damn cocky,” before leaving the living and disappearing and well, Ron just can’t stop grinning. He sits there looking very stupid probably for about another ten minutes before he realises that he’s all alone and he should probably go to bed before Pansy catches him and chases him around for being a flubberworm calibre dimwit.

***

Chapter Text

Number eighteen: to be a Potter or a Mother

They do meet in the kitchen and it’s not awkward that they had breakfast together in that same kitchen the same morning and when Pansy goes to tease Ron about his uncharacteristically neatly ironed shirt Draco shuts her up with a non-verbal spell land then sticks out his tongue childishly as he follows the redhead out the door. Ron is pretty sure he’s head over.

They listen to music together as they ride the bus and Draco is pointing out all the people with outfits that he likes and his cheekbones are soft golden and shimmering in the sun. He is wearing black ankle jeans and a beige shirt and he’s carrying a yellow clutch and when their eyes meet Ron feels his cheeks blush. There’s sad songs and happy songs and sometimes they mutter along to the lyrics together and it feels like what magic feels like, too.

He takes him to Brick Lane market with all its colours and smells and Draco’s eyes go wide at the sight and then they’re just strolling through the different stands with Ron introducing him to dishes from different countries. There’s handbags and shoes and yoga pants too, and Draco seems in constant awe of how bright everything looks. He takes a whole lot of pictures of all the different dishes and then of one stand that sells boots and then of the musicians playing drums. Ron takes the blond’s picture in front of a mural and then they take a selfie together, too, and he thinks about how this is their first real picture together, really, all the pictures before this one were just practice shots.

And they eat a lot of food, too. Ron introduces him to spices and then they try fajitas, and then Draco gets distracted by an older women waving at them with a big smile and they try paneer stuffed paratha next, and then samosa with a mint sauce. Ron talks a lot about food and Draco is always just looking at him with the most eager intent, nodding avidly as he waves his hands around to accentuate his words – he’s curious too, asks him questions and dreams out loud with him, indulges Ron as he feeds him a bite of a chocolate croissant and talks about opening his own place one day. Nothing sounds stupid when you have Draco Malfoy smiling right beside you, exclaiming, “that sounds wonderful!” as he daps at your chocolate-covered mouth with a napkin.

They end up holding hands somewhere in between two moments – Ron doesn’t notice at first and then when he does he doesn’t feel nervous about it either, not like he thought he would. If people notice, he doesn’t notice them noticing – of course he notices but he doesn’t care very much – there’s other priorities now.

Draco is very gentle in everything he does, except when they find a place to sit in a nearby park to eat their macarons and they’re sharing earbuds and someone is singing “you can fuck who you wanna fuck” and then there’s his lips against Ron’s and he’s absolutely devastating in his conquest.

He doesn’t like the green macaron but he absolutely adores the red one and it’s kind of funny but for some reason Ron’s the only one thinking of Hogwarts houses this day. Draco talks about apple flavoured jelly and there’s a smile in the corner of his mouth, still there when he cheekily eats the last macaron left.

They pass flowers on the way to their last stop and Draco wants to get him some more sunflowers and it’s endearing to watch him fuss over them, picking out the ones he thinks are healthiest and prettiest and most like Ron – their brown hearts remind him of Ron’s skin and freckles he says, not embarrassed.

“If my flowers are sunflowers then you must be the sun, because I’m always gravitating towards you,” and he says it to be cheesy too, but there’s nothing cheesy about how the pale cheeks tint rosy pink, the long eyelashes fluttering shyly.

When it turns out that Ron is taking him to a pottery class, he just cannot stop smiling – and that alone is making Ron grin so hard he fears his cheeks might be stiff the next day. His eyes are sparkling with mischief and he just kind of holds on to Ron’s arm for a moment before very seriously choosing a place close to the instructor and then folding up his sleeves with a strict expression on his face.

They work side-by-side and Draco makes very stupid Ghost references which Ron finds beyond entertaining. It’s no surprise that Draco is quite natural at pottery, and his hands move ever-graceful over the clay as it rotates, forming beautiful shapes beneath his fingers. The patterns he carves in his vase are intricate and delicate, a reflection of who he is, Ron thinks. He listens to the instructor and his work is precise – he is all focused on his little work of art, and his intensity is too attractive.

Ron finds that he himself mostly just enjoys preoccupying his hands because every little thing the blond is doing besides him makes him want to reach out. And then when he has a little clumsily created a vase he deems good enough he starts toying around with the left-over clay and he finds himself enjoying that even more because it feels really nice underneath his fingers and it’s really cool how he can push here and pull there and make something out of nothing.

Their hands are wet and dirty, but when their eyes meet his heart is full.

Afterwards Ron takes home his really bad-looking miniature dog and Draco says their goodbyes to the couple that had sat next to them and then he smiles at Ron, and there’s something hiding in his face that Ron can’t read.

“That was really cool,” he says because saying something is better than nothing, “I should make more stuff out of clay!”

They start to walk towards a secluded place so they can apparate home, and Draco is still looking at him as he asks, “so, you want to become a clayer then?”

Ron kind of snorts, kind of giggles, and the pale cheek is glittering in the light of the street lantern so he pulls the man into a dark corner and then kisses him silly, still half-giggling as he does. They’re smiling against each other’s lips as he corrects him, “don’t you mean potter?”

Except Draco rolls his eyes ostentatiously, hands settling on Ron’s hips and then squeezing them, very slow and deliberate. His face is so serious, Ron worries if perhaps he’s said something wrong, the tone business-like as he says, “I’m not asking you, on our very first date, whether or not you want to become a Potter.”

It takes half a second for Ron to process and then he’s giggling again, but Draco is grinning too – always so proud of his own lame jokes – and so he just kind of has to kiss him again, a little bit longer this time, just enough for their bodies to press together and…

He feels the tug of apparition and he knows Draco is taking him somewhere and that’s okay.

Except maybe it’s not? Because this isn’t his room, and they’ve never…

He’s slept in Draco’s room, sure, but the blond was very clear about this being his space and how much he hates people in his space except that now they are kissing and they almost kick over one of the succulents on their way to the bed.

“You sure this ok?” he can’t even form a coherent sentence, because Draco is toeing out of his shoes and he’s pushing him backwards until he hits the bed and…

The blinds are not fully drawn and there’s dim light coming from outside and when he strips off his shirt over his head his skin is like milk in the moonlight – and there’s nothing but pure unadulterated lust on his face and…

He finds himself on top and he’s kissing down Draco’s pale throat and trying to murmur, “this okay?” at the same time but he’s distracted. He forgets his own thoughts now, because Draco is unbuttoning his shirt and running his hands down his skin and he never gets tired of that sight – pale fingers caressing down his tan abdomen as if they were previously touch-deprived.

A lazy smile plays on Draco’s face, his pink lips parted after another kiss – and then he hums, “why do you keep asking?” almost offhandedly, interest already drawn elsewhere when he finally gets Ron’s shirt all the way off.

“We’ve never…” he wants to say something but then those pink lips are on his nipple and it’s really damn hard, “never… here…”

Draco’s head makes a soft sound as it hits the pillow – he’s looking up with a familiar intensity in his eyes, determined to sort out any lies and detect any deception. It’s like those grey orbs can just read right through the fog in his brain and pick out all the little thoughts – and though he knows Draco can, he also knows that he wouldn’t.

His hands stray, almost casually, down Ron’s sides and then they linger there, one brave digit outlining the pelvic bone as the owner of said digit is lost in thought – now, Ron is not impatient but he’s biting his lip to stop himself from moaning and he really hopes Draco would make up his mind sooner, rather than later.

“Yeah,” Draco agrees – because yes, actually, they’ve never used this bed together for anything more than cuddling as they drift off to dreamland and here Ron is, in his space, where Draco loathes having people, and they’re about to be naked there too, and touching and hopefully… “but I want to.”

It’s really ridiculous how happy those four words make him – his cheeks are aching he’s smiling so broadly. Then he gets pulled down into another kiss and they’re kind of grinning into it, both just really stupid in their happiness and then Draco’s hands wander down and he’s moaning instead, thoroughly distracted.

Draco’s long legs wrap around him and those soft thighs are stroking his sides and he thinks he wants to live in this moment forever – with the blond head thrown back and those pink lips parted in a cry and he thinks this moment is probably perfect, and he wants to keep it like this, always.

It’s like coming home, too, Draco’s body soft and warm and so pliant for home, welcoming him with every in stroke. Draco’s hands gripped into his hips, keep him close, sing him home.

Afterwards he keeps Draco pressed very close into his body, even as he turns onto his side and he wants to keep pressing kisses in the crown of that blond head for the rest of his life. There’s soft sighs near the nape of his neck where Draco’s face is hiding and he thinks maybe, okay yeah, that previous moment had been pretty damn perfect but maybe this is even more so. Their legs tangled and Draco’s breath against his chest and if he focuses hard enough he can feel the way their hearts beat in sync.

That, is perfection.

Draco wakes up first, but only because his phone starts buzzing at five a.m. and he’s already escaped from his clutches and is shrugging into black slacks by the time Ron’s bleary eyes have finally opened.

“Emergency,” he just whispers as he buttons up his dress shirt, and then he’s hasty to get into his jacket, “get some more sleep,” he says it very softly, and then comes over to kiss Ron’s lips and it’s the gentlest kiss he’s ever gotten, possibly, and something bright bursts in his chest at the feel of it, “I’ll be back as soon as possible.”

He drifts back up and it’s not so lonely with that kiss still lingering there, and the silk sheets cool against his body and the pillow still smelling like his partner, the promise in his voice still ringing in his ears. He’s here now, in Draco’s space, and he kind of feels like he belongs. It’s not as stupid a thought he thought it would have been.

As soon as possible is not soon enough, because he wakes up later to an empty bed. There’s a couple of messages on his phone though, and he soon finds out Draco will be stuck at work until the afternoon. He spends a moment just enjoying the feeling of happiness in his stomach before getting up and dressing.

Neither Cassiopeia nor Pansy have snarky remarks waiting for him in the kitchen, but the blonde does give him a very suggestive wink as he passes by with red cheeks on his way to his own bedroom. He’s been thinking about Draco and that song they made out to before – and Harry had said something about hate crimes, too, but then Ron had been too distracted to care.

Except that he finds himself caring a lot now – he hasn’t been in a real relationship in a long time and back then they were always very secretive about it. Now, he wants to hold Draco’s hands wherever he goes; the idea that people are watching them, judging them, for their love, is sickening.

He writes a letter to his sister because Draco told him that if he wants to be sure amends will be made, he should always take the first step, and she is an open bisexual with a female partner and a baby on the way, working at the Daily Prophet; if someone’s heard of hate crimes, it’s bound to be her.

Afterwards he has breakfast and this time Pansy does tease him but more in a “you break his heart I will turn your little mister into a liquorice wand” kind of way which he takes to mean she approves in her own terms.

For lunch he takes Ginny somewhere close to the building that hides the Daily Prophet HQ, and she is still a little cross with him at first but the thing is, Ron is dating Draco Malfoy and therefor he is walking on clouds, positivity embodied, and nothing can stop him, he is floating. Which in turn seems to amuse Ginny, at least a little bit, so soon they are browsing menus and there’s a little smile on her face as they discuss Bulgaria’s latest match.

He asks her about hate crimes and the likes too, and at first she just kind of rolls her eyes, “witches and wizards are as homophobic as it gets,” and then, voice tired, “where have you been?”

“In the closet, mostly,” he answers, and she snorts – but it lacks some heart, and it’s kind of sad.

She talks about Dean and Seamus and Lavender and Parvati, about Luna and two other Hufflepuffs Ron’s never heard of and now he thought he was just too busy being Harry’s best friend to notice these kind of things but there’s a whole list of people he’s known for years who had been closeted all through Hogwarts just out of fear of the repercussions. She talks about how Seamus’ parents disowned him and how Parvati’s sister cannot look her in the eye – how Parvati was not allowed to attend Lavender’s funeral, because Lavender’s mother blamed her for his daughter’s corruption. She talks about how there’s a handful of hidden bars in their world too, but they have to move locations all the time before a bunch of old-fashioned wizards come bashing in the windows and shouting profanity at the clientele. She talks about how only recently same-sex marriages have been voted as legal under the ministry of Magic as they weren’t accepted for the longest time.

Ron thinks his head hurts, but then it might just be his heart.

They eat their pastas and then she says how she’s had reports of wizards attacking wizards and muggles attacking wizards – unaware that they are wizards, of course – before, but her editor finds homophobia boring, and he claims writing about homosexuality is vulgar.

Ron wonders how she survives like that – in that office with that horrible man, day in day out, but Ginny just kind of shrugs it off, and they both know they’ve seen worse.

She orders a chocolate mousse because Ron insists, and there’s something in her eyes, gleaming when he explains he wants to help because doing nothing absolutely sucks.

“We could do with some positive representation, Dumbledore setting the bench mark before was an absolute disaster with that whole thing of him having possibly killed his sister,” it doesn’t hurt to talk about it now, but there was a time when neither of them could process that thought without getting sick to the stomach. Idolising a man only to find out he might have committed such a cardinal sin was horrible – he shudders to think of it now, but then gets distracted when one of the other patrons comes up to him, “it’s too bad Harry’s so damn straight.”

He laughs because he wants her to know he’s still listening but then he’s taking a selfie and handing out an autograph and he feels a little uncomfortable because suddenly his baby sister is looking at him as if he’s tasty chocolate mousse.

You’re very popular,” she remarks painfully casual, eyeing him up and down.

“Oh please,” Ron rolls his eyes and digs into his own crème brûlée, “one autograph.”

“There’s a dozen more who can’t wait to ask and everyone is looking at you,” she runs her look around the room and Ron doesn’t have to because he knows – being a Quidditch player is a big deal in the Wizarding world, and people recognise him wherever he goes, “how about you come out of the closet?”

Ron snorts at that because it is legitimately funny, “I consider myself out,” he says, and he thinks of Draco kissing him right on his face in the middle of the park, people passing by but nothing mattering because there’s just the two of them and it’s enough.

“Really,” there’s teasing in her voice now, as she spoons up some mousse and waves it in his face, “because mom considers you inconclusive.”

He can’t really say anything to that because he’s not – inconclusive. Ginny eyes him, then just smiles like she understands – which he’s not sure she really does. They enjoy the rest of their dessert and Ron promises to think about it because yes, he does actually want to help, and yes, he realises that writing this article would be a big deal for Ginny and might make her boss see she can do more than give house-hold tips – which Ron guesses she’s actually pretty bad at, but he doesn’t mention it. She gives him a list of charities he can donate to and when they stand to leave she gives him a hug that isn’t awkward at all.

He pays for lunch and she says, “thanks, Ron,” and Ron knows she means it, too.

***

Chapter Text

Number nineteen: Teddy Turmoil

 

Nothing changes except everything changes.

Draco texts him when he’ll be home late, and he sends him pictures of recipes he wants Ron to try out, and when he goes to the market he brings back flowers. Sometimes, even when Cassiopeia and Pansy are in the room, Draco kisses him, always very tenderly – neither of them overly enjoy PDA’s, but there’s always that little smirk hiding in the corner of his mouth afterwards.

They continue playing chess, and with Draco busy at the hospital and Ron looking for a space and scheduling a photoshoot with his sister they don’t see each other for extended periods of time, but they make every second count. Ron sends him lunch every day, and if he can manage it he goes in himself – the nurses of two different hospitals have started to anticipate his arrival and it makes him nervous and giddy at the same time. In the evening the four of them drink wine and hang out and Draco’s hand is always touching him – brushing down his arm, resting on his knee, fingers waving between his own.

Life goes on, and it’s still life, except better.

They arrange to have Teddy visit and Ron postpones all the real estate appointments and tells his sister they’ll do the interview next week. He discovers Teddy always sleeps in bed with Draco, as the boys usually stay up late talking and Teddy is still a bit of a cuddler. He buys all of Teddy’s favourite foods – unsurprisingly there’s a whole array of different sweets he likes, and, a little surprisingly, he enjoys all different sorts of fish – and helps Draco tidy up his room in preparation – they don’t tidy up but make out on the bed instead – and then he’s getting up early just so he can check the living room one last time before he deems it Teddy-ready.

Andromeda has gotten a bad case of flue so it’s Harry that drops Teddy off on Monday afternoon. Everyone’s already left for work, and Ron doesn’t really have to say anything because it’s like Harry already knows. He shrugs, “well at least Draco’s nose is dead centre,” laughs, and then presses a kiss to his Godson’s head before he too, leaves for the office.

Teddy’s hair is ginger today, like Ron’s, and he tries ignoring how happy that makes him feel. The boy insists they make a cake together, because, as he puts it, he hasn’t seen Draco in ages and he wants to surprise him with chocolate because kids aren’t allowed wine yet. This, Ron deems as a wise decision, so he digs out a recipe for triple chocolate cake with a salted caramel fudge and they start working, Teddy next to him standing on a small stool so he has easy access to all that’s on the counter.

Ron is nervous because he’s pretty sure he should be saying something. They’re having Teddy over for the whole week, and although all four of them are equally excited he cannot stop worrying – because he’s pretty sure he’s going to want to kiss Draco or hug him or hold his hand and how are they going to explain to Teddy that now all of a sudden they sometimes make out on sofas? Is it unethical to make out on couches in front of seven-year-olds?

“So…” they’re just putting the batter in a round mould when he decides he should at least say something, anything will do, really, “I… Draco and I, we go on dates sometimes,” he shrugs his shoulders really awkwardly and as soon as the words leave his mouth he wants to take them back.

Teddy doesn’t even look up from where he’s using the spatula to scoop the rest of the goo from the mixing bowl, “why?” he asks plainly.

Why? Ron just kind of stares for a moment. Of all the possible reactions he has anticipated, that is definitely not one of them. Why?

“Because I like him,” he kind of blurts out the answer before he’s thought of it properly and he feels embarrassed even just thinking about what he’s said as soon as he’s said it and then he just kind of wants the ground to swallow him whole.

“Oh! Like you like Harry?” Teddy leaves him no time for regrets however because that’s just another very odd thing to say – at least Ron thinks it’s an odd thing to say but then he hasn’t had the most of traditional upbringings and perhaps he is not one to correctly judge what suffices as odd or not.

“No, I mean—“ there is no more batter transportation going on as Teddy has turned his eyes on him curiously – he supposes he should be glad he’s finally roused the boy’s full attention but now he just feels very acutely aware of the fact that he’s sweating and his hair seems sticky to his temple, “of course I like your godfather but it’s different,” he wipes at his forehead uncomfortably and blurts out, “let’s just put it this way, if Draco showed up naked on my doorstep I wouldn’t run away screaming.”

Which isn’t something he should have said.

Teddy’s red brow knits together in a very Draco-esque movement, and he bites his lip in confusion as he queries, “but if it were Harry, you would? Does he have a rash?”

Ron feels as if he’s just been run over by a mad hippogriff and then maybe had his brain fried by a blast-ended skrewt, “why would he have a rash?” because he’s pretty sure Harry’s skin is as prim and proper as it’s always been since leaving Hogwarts – blessed with magically clean pores, that bugger.

“Why would you scream when he’s naked?” Teddy retaliates instantly and Ron really wishes the blond would stop teaching the small boy the proper ways to win an argument because there’s far too much Malfoy oozing from the confident way he forms his question.

“I mean I… wouldn’t?” now that he has indeed been forced to imagine his own best friend naked he’s suddenly not so sure whether he would or wouldn’t – maybe he’s seen him naked once or twice during Hogwarts, but not any time lately, and the idea is just weird.

He’s pretty sure people don’t usually see their best friends naked, but then he remembers the party the Slytherins had on their couch and that was a pretty damn naked party. No dicks out, but did Harry’s dick really need to be out for him to be considered naked? Those briefs he wore left little to the imagination and—

Ron is drawn from his very disturbing line of thoughts when Teddy continues with the air of a snooty-nosed young Malfoy heir: “we take baths together, and I’ve never once screamed.”

“That’s good,” Ron absentmindedly pats Teddy’s hair as he tries to direct his thoughts back to the cakes – he’s not quite sure he remembers what they’d been talking about, honestly, and he’s already spent too much time imagining his best friend naked for this to turn into any kind of productive day, “very good…”

With that he puts the baking trays in the oven and decides promptly that he’s in need of a nap – he doesn’t notice Teddy is staring at him as if he’s a most untrustworthy individual and it’s all for the best, too.

He ends up not taking that nap he wanted to, and instead lounges on the couch while Teddy sits by his feet with a colouring book. The flat is warm and comfortable and he’s feeling snug on the couch with the smaller redhead showing off his drawings proudly every so often, and Ron has almost forgotten about their earlier conversation altogether when Teddy suddenly asks, “so what does it mean, loving someone?” without taking his eyes off his drawing.

Ron has to think about that one, actually, not just because he didn’t expect the question but also because, it’s actually a very valid question. What does it mean to love someone?

He thinks back to the past few weeks and all the times he’s been in Draco’s study, or by the counter drinking wine, or on the couch, talking to the blond, arms avidly moving around, frustrations bursting from his lips and how not once he’s been judged. There’s things he’s told Draco that he’s not exactly proud of, but the other boy always has his back – unconditionally, he supported him, got him back on track, encouraged him to pat off the dirt off his shoulders and move on, always forward.

“Loving someone means always picking them,” he thinks of how stupid he’d been before, blunt and awkward as he misunderstood Draco’s loss of a patient, and how forgiving Draco had been, “even when they’re not loveable.”

Teddy looks up with his brows furrowed again, and even though they’re ginger, he’s reminded of the blond.

“Like…” he thinks of a way to explain, scrunching up his face, “take your godfather!” Harry was actually perfect for this example – not like before with the nakedness and the rash, he shudders at the memory – because there was that whole second-year fiasco they dealt with, “everyone loves him when he’s being a hero,” he waves his hand around to illustrate his point, “but who loves him when he’s the heir of Slytherin?”

“He’s the what?”

“I do!” Ron answers enthusiastically, pumping his fist in the air – and then spontaneously dropping it back to his side as he realises that Teddy looks only more confused, not less, “I mean, what? It’s a Hogwarts thing!” leave it to Harry not to tell the story that make him look like a sadistic murderer, really.

It seems that he did do something right though, as Teddy puts his crayon to his lips and seems to think over the new information. Then, he tips his head to the side in what is probably the cutest thing Ron’s ever seen – only to then speak very not-cute words that make Ron want to strangle himself: “so are you dating Draco, or Harry?”

“Draco!” Ron blurts it out so quickly his face flushes with it – he’s getting flustered with the topic and flustered with his own inaptness at explaining even such an important concept, “of course it’s Draco.”

To his surprise Teddy no longer looks surprised, and instead there’s a grin sneaking up on his face. He looks far too sneaky for such a young child, and Ron starts to wonder how early the Malfoy corruption sets in. Or perhaps he shouldn’t leave Teddy and Pansy alone in a room together? He’s sure he’s seen that grin somewhere before, and it promises absolute pure evil, definitely.

“I know that, of course,” Teddy says it with the air of a student whose suffered at the expensive of their less-bright fellow students one too many time – Hermione – his eyes twinkling mischievously, “Draco told me he likes you ages ago! We write letters, remember?”

There’s nothing he can do but just stare, because he’s a Weasley, he grew up with Fred and George, they were his whole entire childhood but here is this seven-year-old, son of a Marauder and a clumsy trickster, raised by the derailed Black sister and smitten with his Malfoy cousin. He should have known, if his brain is still safe in his skull and not molten, dripping down out of his ears by the end of the week, he’ll be one lucky bloke. He feels this strange urge to kind of pull all of his hair out, one by one – much preferable to more of the same, honestly, because Teddy is just a born trickster, and he’s not even old enough to swear yet.

“He…” he thinks about Draco too, though, about how happy he was to eat the coque-au-vin and then the cock-au-vin and his encouraging words and gentle looks and clear eyes and… how could he have ever doubted that Draco was anything else but absolutely head over heels for him? “…of course he did.”

Teddy’s crooked grin turns into a soft smile, and when he later shows Ron a drawing of a blond, a redhead, and a smaller figure with yellow-and-red hair, he’s not very surprised.

***

They have assembled the layered cake and covered it with the thick salty caramel fudge, and Teddy is definitely not making a small mess of the kitchen as he tries to draw Draco’s face on the top of it in whipped cream, he swears, when the door opens.

Draco is wearing a two-piece suit today, with soft grey lines and a white pinstripe. His cheekbones glitter in the light as he turns to hang his coat, but before he can speak Teddy puts on a pout, claiming, “you came home too early!” which Ron really doesn’t agree with at all because there’s a smile in the corner of the pink mouth, his lips plump and pink and his body a little tense, wrists dancing in the air with his moments and this is the perfect time for him to come home otherwise Ron would have missed the twinkle in his eyes and the way his body sings.

“Hmm,” Draco makes a noncommittal sound, toes off his shoes and then pads over to where they’re putting away their utensils, burying his nose in the ginger hair – it flashes with golden at the touch and Ron finds himself a little startled at the sight – his arms coming around to hug Teddy from behind, “you smell like flour.”

“I like violets,” Teddy replies, giggles when Draco nuzzles into his ear next.

He’s had a long day – Ron knows by the way he holds on for a second too long, and then when their eyes meet and the grey is sluggish metallic, his fingers clumsy as they reach out to brush down Ron’s back.

“We should have a bath,” Draco speaks into his cousin’s hair, his fingers slip down Ron’s hip and linger, “is that me? I look delicious! What an amazing job you did! You want to eat this in the tub?”

Teddy bounces with excitement at the question, nodding avidly as he turns his head slightly to stare at the blond and then back at Ron, “oh can we? Can we?”

Ron isn’t sure what to say because although he’s pretty sure it’s not his decision to make he’s also not entirely sure it’s not – because his beautiful blond is hiding exhaustion behind his eyes, and Ron knows that on exhausting days he likes the extent of his personal decisions to be whether he’ll be having red wine, or white.

And maybe today Pansy won’t be the one to decide, “okay, you, bed, now, before you faint,” and then lead him to his bedroom with a stern look and firm hands – maybe dating Draco means that she will never be the one, ever again, because that’s Ron now, that’s part of what liking Draco is, he’s pretty sure, because as a Malfoy he believes himself to be indestructible and as Draco he knows he is not, and he needs someone to draw that line for him, because as Draco Malfoy he can not.

So ten minutes later they’re in the tub and Teddy has sliced the cake in very uneven pieces and Draco is making them float in the air with just the swish of his fingers and Ron has his wand waving around so that he can pour Draco a glass of white and himself and Teddy some soda and it’s good.

The blond’s magic is thick in the air with how there’s bottles floating around, the tap shutting off automatically, cake flying in and out of reach of Teddy’s grabby hands, and it’s just such a rare occurrence. There’s fondness, settling deep in his stomach as he watches Draco soap up the boy’s hair, talking in a teasing voice as he meticulously massages the shampoo into the red curls. There’s parts of Draco here that Ron hasn’t seen this vividly in a long time – it’s silly how attractive his magic is, but it’s been ages since he saw the boy multitask his wandless spells and there’s something comforting there, too.

There is an ease that he has when around Teddy that he has nowhere else. Protective, calculating, but fondly chattering as he makes cake dance and spin around their heads. Ron is quite sure he could sit there all day, watching the boys interact – and not just because Teddy is too happy spending time with his cousin to be sassy – the hard lines in Draco’s shoulders softening as he relaxes.

He can’t help but think back to his own bath times when he was a kid – they were always catastrophic, as his mother often reminded him, because their tub was tiny and he had to share with Fred and George, and later, Fred and George and Ginny. His brothers always roughhoused him, pushed him under or got soap in his eyes, and most of the time was spent with his mother getting angry and then accidentally poking Ron in the face as she tried to wash his hair and scold the twins. Bill or Charlie would come barging in to pee and Percy would complain about the nosiness coming from the bathroom and it was just, in general, not a relaxing experience at all.

Hogwarts had not been much better, with one shower and five teenage boys who needed to use it, and though he’d enjoyed the Prefect’s baths, he had not gotten to take advantage of the privilege at all, with what trying to save the world and all.

Actually he hadn’t been able to enjoy taking a bath up until he moved in with Cassiopeia at first, and the girl was adamant that they have a tub and not just a shower – she didn’t care about the size, she just complained about the lack of onsen in the UK and how she needed to be able to submerge her body in 40 degrees water at least once a week.

Even then he hadn’t really seen the charm – he was used to showering by then, and even though there were always some nicely scented soaps and ointments next to the tub that Cassiopeia used for any number of ailments from sore muscles to dry skin, he was too sceptical.

Except that Draco is an excellent wizard and he’s added three different potions to the bath and Ron is pretty sure the water is eating away at his nerves because he feels like he’s afloat, no longer in this tense body he calls his own but rather watching at the scenario from afar.

He thinks he can see the merits of taking baths now, but then he also thinks the company is probably half the charm, because when Draco’s eyes meet his there’s a lingering sentiment there – it’s not fondness or happiness or love, but Ron finds it to be warm, for him, and then he never wants to look away.

Teddy is sitting between the blond’s legs and Ron is making his toy Grindylow splash up and out of the water to make him giggle and he has the fingers of his wandless hand stroking down Draco’s ankle and those eyes focused on his lips and maybe this is what family bliss is supposed to feel like?

Teddy seems to be thinking about it too, but Ron only finds out about that later.

***

Chapter Text

Number Twenty: I Love Soda

It’s a couple of days later and Draco kissed the both of them on their cheeks when he left that morning – Ron has been extremely good, if he does say so himself, keeping himself from getting too touchy when the younger boy is around and sleeping very dutifully in his own bed – and they are making lunch together now, Teddy back on the stool next to Ron, helping him chop the cucumbers.

He says it very casually – or you know, Ron is trying to perfect his hot sauce and he’s not exactly paying perfect attention to the currently-blond next to him – just as he finishes up his chopping job, “one of the girls in my class has two moms,” goes the story, “she says her first mom got real sick and her dad couldn’t take care of her so he put her in a house where an older lady took care of her until her second and third mom came to visit and picked her to be their daughter.”

He says it very quickly, like he says most things – Teddy is an avid storyteller with wild hand gestures and words flowing like a waterfall.

“Oh, I see,” Ron nods because he doesn’t want Teddy to think he hasn’t been listening – he has he is also just very sure that his hot sauce is too salty and not sure what to do with that knowledge.

He misses the way Teddy blushes, and then balls his fists as he braces himself for his next words, “is grandma like that old woman?”

It takes Ron a moment to realise that there are more important things than hot sauce happening right at now and then another moment to realise that Teddy thinks his grandmother is—

“Oh no! Teddy,” he drops his spoon absentmindedly, turns so he can see the smaller boy fully now, “no, she is talking about adoption. That’s when someone’s parents can’t take care of them and they are raised in an adoption home so that new parents can find them!”

Teddy blinks rapidly at this newfound information, but he makes no amends to turn away. Ron tries to gauge his reaction – it’s hard because when he first spent time with Teddy he kind of figured that his appearance dictated his personality, which was just a gross misjudgement on his part and he’d wished he’d read up on metamorphmagi sooner. Some days when he wakes up he looks a lot like Draco and then when he walks into the kitchen and sees Pansy his hair flashes black and when he meets Cassiopeia as she pours him orange juice his eyes turn emerald. He has no control over these things – the magic in him seems to settle very randomly, though he himself claims it settles on what his heart needs most in that moment – but that doesn’t mean that he has no control over his feelings and emotions and his own character. Whether he looks like Pansy or Draco for the day, the way his face scrunches up when he smiles and his eyes narrow when he feels petulant, that is all just Teddy, and Ron has wasted too much time trying to gauge his reactions depending on who he resembled most at the time.

His next question is heart-breaking though, and Ron is not quite sure what to do with that.

“Do you think new parents will find me some day, too?”

Before he can reconsider it, he spreads out his arms and takes the small body into them – Teddy feels frail where he is hiding his face in Ron’s chest, and it’s a little strange because Ginny is only one year younger and there was never such a difference in bulk between them growing up, but he remembers Bill holding him tight when he cried and the comfort that can be found in just the press of a warm body keeping you safe so he just kind of throws himself all in it, wraps his big arms around the tiny shoulders and just kind of hopes he offers him some solace in the moment.

He thinks about what Draco would say if he were here, and how good he probably was at the whole talking-about-deceased-parents thing. Because, let’s face it; there’s a reason why Ron is always just bumbling about, why he was inept even as his friend was saving the world, why Hermione rolls her eyes at every third word that comes out of his mouth: he’s really bad with words.

“Do you want them to?” it’s not really words, he doesn’t consider them to be – these are emotions, and despite popular belief, in recent years, he’s gotten quite good at those. Maybe even more so in recent months, spent in Draco’s presence.

“Well…” Teddy turns his face to look up at Ron in wonder – he’s not crying, but his body is still pressed into Ron’s as if he needs the comfort, so the redhead doesn’t pull back, “it would be nice to have. My grandma already raised her kids. And the girl’s moms make her pancakes after every rehearsal!” his eyes shimmer brightly, and it’s a lot of wistful thinking that makes Ron’s heart ache, “and they take family pictures together without it being a little painful. Grandma misses my parents and her sister Cissy.”

It’s strange to hear the name from Teddy’s mouth – he’s only ever heard Draco talk on the phone, fondly referring to her as “mother” and when Pansy mentions her it’s almost leering, “Narcissa” she says – and he’s kind of struck with the realisation that this is not what Andromeda refers to her as. To Andromeda, even after everything that has happened, she is Cissy, her baby sister still, nothing but the warmest thoughts left of her, shown even in the way that she speaks.

Ron is kind of baffled by it, because he’s only ever seen Andromeda as the rebellious Black sister, Sirius’ favourite cousin for all the right reasons, a Slytherin Ron had always been able to get behind because she made ambition brave, not selfish, and he remembers learning through her that the house is not all dark schemes and power-plots. She is strong, it’s the one word that comes to mind, that through all her hardships she is still here and—

“I really love my grandma,” Teddy’s voice is really small when he speaks next, and he hides his head back down into Ron’s chest in what he realises is shame, “but having parents seems fun too.”

He can’t actually argue with that because sure, he doesn’t usually think of his own parents as fun, but he’s seen what having no parents did to Harry growing up and he recognises a need that he hasn’t seen since all those years back at Victoria Station, a boy lost in ways he didn’t even realise yet.

He’s not sure what to say either because of course he wants Teddy to be happy – he is so young, it’s painful to watch sometimes, all the wonder in his face even as he is reminded of the hard reality of what evil destroyed his family every single day. He’s strong in ways Ron could have only hoped to be at seven years of age, but most of all he is inspiring. His presence brightens the house, he is mischievous and he is loved, Ron wants to keep him safe but he just doesn’t know how.

He doesn’t want to say things he’ll regret – he can’t say, I’m sure you’ll find your parents later or but your grandma loves you because everything seems trite and insincere. In fact he doesn’t know what the future holds and what Andromeda is planning to do, or what Harry’s intentions are – is he toying with the idea of adoption? Always-single finally-tasting-life Harry Potter who is finally free to be whatever the hell he wants to be?

He remembers how readily Sirius had offered to have his Godson move in and he wonders if maybe that’s what Teddy wants most? Would Harry make a similar offer in the future, is that what Harry wants? It’s all as much of a mystery as Blasted-end skrewt anatomy is to Ron, honestly.

So he doesn’t say anything for the longest time and instead just holds Teddy. He presses a kiss to the top of his head and he mutters, “I have no idea what to tell you right now, but I’m just really happy you told me,” and he thinks of all the times Draco has said that exact same thing to him and—

Teddy is looking up at him with big grey eyes and as they meet Ron’s, he sees them change, slowly turning a light blue – like his own – just as his hair goes bright red as well. He doesn’t really answer, but he smiles, very brightly, all his teeth showing, and that’s enough.

They finish the lamb kofte they have been making and Ron puts their Greek salad in some Tupperware before they get ready. He helps Teddy pick out his outfit for the day – an interesting experience, as they both have gotten used to hanging around the house in their pyjamas these past few days – and then they get dressed together after washing their faces in the bathroom.

Today Draco is working in the hospital on fifth street where the nurses are really nice, but Ron knows there’s a chance of running into Doctor Dickhead so he makes sure he’s looking good, with a sweater that is showing off his muscular arms and grey linen pants that reach his ankles.

They take a taxi there and Teddy brings a drawing he’s made of Draco that morning, and as they get out he holds Ron’s hand, bubbling with excitement. He must be used to visiting Muggle places, because he doesn’t look surprised at all as they get into the elevator, chatting happily about something that happened at ballet last week.

It all happens kind of fast next, because Ron is talking to the nurses to check whether or not Draco is available yet, but Teddy is paying no heed to this whatsoever and before the redhead has realised, the boy is already running down the hall in the direction of Draco’s office.

He apologises to the nurse as soon as he notices, and then goes racing after the smaller redhead – when he arrives at Draco’s office however, the boy has already burst in through the door and…

Draco is wearing a three-piece marine blue suit today, and he has a lap full of Teddy, the boy’s eyes shimmering with mischief. He is not, however, the only person in the room.

Doctor Dickhead is scowling, seated across from Draco in one of the comfortable chair, and there is a female doctor standing behind Draco and watching his computer as she munches on a sandwich – she is wearing a long pencil skirt and a black dress shirt underneath her doctor’s robe, her brown eyes wide in surprise as she looks from Teddy to Ron and back.

“We made Italian food!” Teddy gushes, throwing his arms around Draco’s neck.

“Greek,” Ron holds up his bag sheepishly, showing off the Tupperware, “I’m sorry, he is fast.”

Doctor Dickhead’s look turns even more sour at the sight of Ron, but the woman looks pleasantly surprised, obviously eying him with a smile.

“Oh, is this your son?” she sounds almost hopeful, which is a little amusing because it just seems to anger Doctor Dickhead even further.

Ever observant, Draco eyes the woman by his side before humming, “he’s my cousin,” to which Teddy cheerfully gives a wave.

“Well, you guys are just in time, we were just about to take a break and have lunch,” she indicates her sandwich and then comes over to the other side of the table where she plops down on one of the comfortable chairs.

Ron isn’t sure what to do because this isn’t exactly what he had planned for lunch, but then Draco is smiling at him and picking up Teddy as he stands up from his chair.

“Let’s see what you have in there,” he smiles teasingly and takes the bag from Ron’s hand, flopping down onto the small white couch and patting the space next to him.

Teddy stands so he can open up the bag and the brunet joins their small group with a scowl, taking his own sandwiches from his bag. When he has stacked the plates and Tupperware on the small side-table, he runs back to the side of Draco’s desk to take his coin-purse, jingling it softly to get the blond’s full attention.

“Can I go get some soda?” he asks, eyes bright with marvel – so perhaps Teddy has been here before, and perhaps the vending machines, not the elevator, were the things to baffle him.

Draco nods his consent and then with a spring in his step Teddy comes over to press a kiss to his cousin’s cheek and then disappears into the hallway.

They sit in silence for a moment as Ron plates up their food, and then when Draco sighs softly as he takes off his suit jacket and gets more comfortable on the couch Ron has to kind of side-eye him because he sounds so pleased, and there’s nothing better than Draco with soft eyes and the slightest of pink hues on his cheeks.

“So, how’s your day going?” Ron asks after another moment – Draco’s eyes glance his way, studying his face before he allows a smile to creep up his lips.

“Good, one of my patients needs reconstructive surgery, so Amanda is helping me with that,” he indicates the dark-haired woman, who looks a little embarrassed at the mention of her name.

Ron frowns, “reconstructive surgery? What’s that?”

To be honest, he’s not even very sure of what Draco even does here, what surgery actually means – he only knows it saves lives.

“Actually I’m just a plastic surgeon,” she definitely sounds embarrassed now, “Draco has the hardest job.”

“You do surgery with plastic?” Ron blinks stupidly because now he knows muggles have been doing a lot of weird stuff like cutting each other open and then stitching each other back up, but plastic?

Draco’s hand finds his knees and even though Amanda snickers like the redhead had just made a joke, the grey eyes meet his and he smiles encouragingly as he explains, “she restores the functions of the body when accidents or illnesses have done damage. Like… your brother Bill’s face for example.”

He thinks of the awful scarring that still covers most of the right side of his brother’s face and how hard it had been on him at first – it had taught Ron that despite what he previously thought, self-confidence was something hard-won, easily-lost, and vital to happiness.

“Oh so…” he looks between Amanda and then Draco, wanting to make sure he understands fully, “you could for example fix my arm?”

Amanda looks confused, frowning curiously at him until he pushes the sleeve of his sweater up past his elbow, revealing the deep white scar from where he splinched his arm all those years ago – the scar tissue is thick and white and it spirals inwards to where the chunk of his arm went missing. It looks rough and painful, even now, even though it has almost completely healed, and the doctor makes a face at the sight of it.

“That looks like quite a bit you’re missing,” she comments, voice pained, puckering her mouth in thought – actually, it doesn’t hurt, and these days, the memory of it doesn’t hurt anymore, either, “I think I’d have to use a skin graft to fix it, or I could—“

She’s halfway through to reaching out to feel the marred skin for herself when Draco speaks, suddenly remarkably stern, “no one,” he says with an explicit look thrown in the woman’s direction, “is touching your arm. It doesn’t need fixing.”

He almost spits out the word as if it tastes bitter in his mouth, a sneer on his face. Ron isn’t sure whether he’s talking to him, or the doctor, but his tone is so cold that the woman immediately backs away.

Draco very stubbornly refuses to meet his eyes, so Ron decides to draw him out in a different way – he goes back to serving the salad, and then says, almost painfully casual, “so, Teddy asked me what love is.”

It’s as if Draco senses a ruse but can’t resist, so without making eye contact he just murmurs a disinterested, “oh?”

“I should have told him it’s you not thinking my ugly ass arm needs fixing,” now Ron is pretty sure he’s seen what Draco looks like when he’s affronted – most of their Hogwarts history is Draco looking various stages of incredulous – but the way Draco’s head snaps up and the look of utter smashing disappointment? That’s new.

The scar tissue is white against his tan skin and it stands out – even though technically the skin there is turned in, a chunk of it quite obviously missing – with intricate scar patterns running away and down his arm from the centre. Unlike the scars the brains in the ministry of magic left, this one has not faded, and in winter it gets itchy and annoying. There is not a single person in their right mind who would not consider the scar ugly. Yet Draco seems to take it as such a personal offence – that Ron doesn’t like this part of him.

It’s a sentiment he doesn’t fully understand, but Amanda seems to get it almost immediately. She lets out a small laugh, and then teases, “come on Draco. You’re saying there’s not a single thing you would change about yourself?”

Draco’s face is a mask of feigned politeness. It shifts so quickly Ron is a little surprised – it has been a long time since Draco has hidden from him, and he’s not sure if he likes it.

“Well,” he looks pensive, finger posed against his chin, “I wouldn’t mind a bigger ass.”

The two other doctors laugh as Ron lets out a gasp in surprise – he is amazed at how fast Draco can school his expressions into neutral again, but perhaps even more so at how easy the blond can joke and play nice with people whom he – to Ron – quite obviously doesn’t fully trust.

Amanda high fives him and then Ron just has to roll his eyes because this whole day just feels ridiculous, “please,” he sticks out his tongue when Draco turns to grin at him – only because there’s ice where Draco’s eyes were and he needs to melt it even if he can’t do so directly, “if your ass got any bigger it would be obscene.”

The doctor giggles and Teddy comes in through the door carrying five different sodas, chirping, “Draco’s butt is so big it bumps me when we sleep!”

The comment is so unexpected that they all start laughing, and then they can’t stop – Ron is wiping his eyes, tears of mirth streaming down and Draco grins down as the boy returns to his lap, looking infinitely proud of himself.

The rest of their lunch is uneventful – with Doctor Dickhead glaring at him and then making googly eyes at Draco – and he mostly just watches Draco enjoy his food, the way his eyes flutter in enjoyment at every bite, and the soft smile in the corner of his mouth, there just for Ron. They take pictures together and Amanda takes a picture of the three of them too, and Ron thinks about all the things Teddy told him earlier and how it seems less important now that they’re here, together, just living life.

They don’t kiss when they say goodbye, which seems really unfair, but then Ron notices the way Draco’s grey eyes slip down his arm before meeting his own again – a split second, but he can’t forget.

So that evening he lets Teddy, Pansy and Cassiopeia watch movies as he waits for Draco in the kitchen. He’s tried to come home early every day so that they can all have dinner together, so it isn’t long before there’s the familiar sound of a key in the lock.

He looks stressed, fatigue clear on his face, and Ron wonders briefly if the whole matter of the patient needing reconstructive surgery was more difficult than Draco had made it appear – it strikes him quite suddenly, the realisation that they rarely ever discuss the blond’s work, despite the fact that they discuss every single thing that ails Ron.

Before he can second-guess himself, he’s searching Draco’s face and meets his eyes, beckoning him over, “come.”

“Teddy—“ he sounds hesitant, the grey dark and clouded now, like stormy skies and an uncertainty of rain or thunder.

“Can wait for five more minutes,” he leaves no room for argument and goes down the hall into his bedroom.

He doesn’t have to wait long at all for Draco to follow him inside, and then when the blond has closed the door, he comes over to crowd in the taller boy’s space. Draco looks surprised, but there’s something in his face that looks relieved too, that perhaps maybe Ron doesn’t want to talk about his feelings and just wants a quickie before dinner – which of course Ron does, but then he also really thinks they need to talk about his feelings too.

His hands find Draco’s hips underneath his suit jacket, atop the soft fabric of his trousers. He uses his thumbs to rub soothingly at the bones and watches as the other man slowly unfurls before him, body going slack and slumping back against the door as he relaxes.

“Draco, tell me,” he hums, trying to keep his voice low.

The grey eyes close shut and there’s a moment where Ron wonders if maybe he’s going to get angry – except then he watches the lithe chest heave and Draco exhales very slowly, willing his body to stay slack.

“I didn’t realise it made you so unhappy,” it’s more of a confession than a straight up answer, his tone laced with shame and that same disappointment again, “I should have noticed sooner but I was selfish.”

Ron doesn’t understand many things, he never has. But Draco Malfoy has spent every second of his life after Hogwarts dedicated to saving lives, and ever since Ron has moved in, he had been just another one of those lives, he realises that. Draco spoke to him about missing pieces and how to get them back, every situation that caused him displeasure, they tackled together. Draco had been making amends his whole life, he did not do failure. The smallest setback sent him back into his room, glum for days and his mind never stopped mulling over all the things he could have done to prevent his own perceived failure.

Dating Ron and adoring every inch of him, discussing every issue with him, and metaphorically holding his hand through every hardship was important to Draco. Ron liked to think it wasn’t just because he wasn’t really good at believing all the things he wanted were within his reach, but Draco had told Teddy about them, and he’d met Ron’s family and done his utmost best to please them: he was in it for the long haul.

So the idea that he had somehow overlooked this part of Ron that he still believed needed fixing, that was what made him disappointed. Not with Ron – with himself.

When no reply is forthcoming, Draco slowly opens his eyes again. There’s wonderment there now, his nose scrunched up slightly as he tries to figure out why Ron hasn’t replied. He’s just staring at him – blue eyes roving over his face and settling on his lips and then coming back up to meet his eyes and—

“I love you.”

Ron thought he would have felt stupid saying it first – he hasn’t said it in ages, not while dating, at least – but then he’s also pretty sure he’s never been more sure of anything in his life.

Draco’s pink lips part in surprise – his eyes have gone slightly wider and his fingers twitch by his side as if he’s not sure what to do with them.

“You don’t have to say it back,” Ron murmurs gently, stroking his hands up Draco’s flank, “you make me so happy. That scar is just a reminder of a whole lot of stupid mistakes I made, but you’re right. I’m not broken, I don’t need fixing. There’s things I want and things I’m going to work for and—“ he brings his hands up to cup the pale face, cradling it gently as he presses a soft kiss to Draco’s still mouth, “most importantly, I love you.”

To his surprise, when he pulls back, Draco is smiling. It’s not a very big smile, no teeth showing, but it’s there and it’s infinitely better than nothing being there at all. His lips look soft and plump in their upturned position, and Draco’s eyelashes flutter endearing as he turns his face gently to look at the redhead properly. His hands are shaking when he brings them up to wrap around Ron’s shoulders, but they still in the embrace, as if the proximity takes away his nerves.

“I love you too,” it’s too sweet, Ron thinks, he must be dreaming. But Draco’s lips are still pink, plush when they meet his own in another kiss, and then there’s hands in his hair and he’s pretty sure he’s not dreaming, after all.

***

Chapter Text

Number Twenty-One: happy graphorns and horny showers

 

Ron wakes up with the vague idea that he dreamt of graphorns storming into the kitchen and eating all his ingredients from the fridge and he is very confused but like that he also has a great idea on how to spend their last day with Teddy together – Draco having taken the whole day off just for the occasion.

The apartment is still dark, barely any light filtering through the blinds in the living, and he pads over to the bathroom almost on auto-pilot, the remnants of his dream still leaving his mind hazy. He turns on the shower to heat the jet and then puts his clothes by the sinks, checking his reflection in the mirror.

Having had no training at all recently he makes a silent promise to himself to start working out more again, as he’s relatively sure he can already see his body turning softer. Nevertheless, he feels like he hasn’t looked this good in ages – his skin seems clearer and there are no bags under his eyes. He looks happy, he thinks, and then it’s an odd and far too complicated thought for such an early hour, so he turns around and gets under the water stream without further thinking.

He soaps himself up and washes his hair, enjoying the steady spray of warm water against his muscles. The scar on his arm is getting pink under the hot spray and he thumbs it absentmindedly before rinsing his head and wondering about what he could make for breakfast that would please Teddy.

He’s so lost in thought that he doesn’t hear the door open at first, except then he hears it click shut again and turn in the lock so he calls out, “I’m in here!” just to make sure Pansy doesn’t catch a glimpse of him naked because that is just a whole new level of intimacy that he is not ready for yet.

When no reply is forthcoming Ron turns down the tap just a little, straining to hear if whoever came in is leaving again – instead he hears soft rustling of fabric, and then quite suddenly, music.

Then there’s a boy singing through the speakers of what Ron guesses is a phone, and when he hears more rustling of fabric, he decides it’s safe to take a peek to see who exactly is invading his privacy.

When it turns out to be Draco he feels relief flood his belly and then something else entirely when he realises the blond has already taken off his silk sleep shorts and is now casually lounging by the sinks in nothing but his short silk robe, inches and inches of lovely pale legs left on display.

He doesn’t realise he’s staring hungrily at the other boy until his eyes travel all the way up over the delicious skin, up his chest and then to his face – the pink lips are up in a grin, telling him all he needs to know. Their eyes meet just as Draco starts undoing his robe, and then his teeth are showing wickedly, as if daring him to look down.

It isn’t until he hears the thump of the fabric hitting the floor that he dares to revert his gaze – he just can’t resist, it feels like years since he’s last seen Draco naked, and the man’s chest is already blushing pink, his stomach soft and his hipbones sharp where they run down into his—

Yes.

He thinks he might cry he’s so happy when the blond joins him in the shower, the cabin spacious and suddenly Ron wishes it wasn’t so because he wants all of that skin pressed tightly against his own. Draco is smirking now, except Ron’s not sure why and then…

The phone sings “so if you wanna kiss the boy then you—“ and then Ron’s not sure what it’s singing because Draco is cradling his face in his hands and looking incredible cocky doing so and they’re suddenly incredibly close and then, after what feels like aeons of looking into those darkened pools of swirling thunder, they finally kiss and it’s probably the best thing that has ever happened to Ron.

The phone continues singing and Draco ends up giggling into the kiss a little, realising he is as silly as they come, probably, which serves him right, Ron figures, because no one breaks into a bathroom and then makes the other person wait just because he wants to kiss during the right phrase of an overly romantic song – actually, it’s cute, but saying so would only fuel Draco’s ego and nobody needs that.

Ron’s hands find the broad hips and then he kind of cradles him there, trying to draw his body in closer. He can feel the smile pressing into their kiss, Draco’s tongue just teasing and his whole frame locked in place, refusing to move any closer.

He knows he’s playing dirty but then he also hasn’t seen his beautiful blond naked in almost a week so he gets to – he draws one of his hands over the pale buttocks and then up between his crack all the way over his spine and Draco’s body just kind of shakes and then wavers as he crashes forward, the kiss suddenly all teeth and heat. Ron has no time to smirk at his own inventiveness because then Draco is pressing up tighter into his space and the boy is already half-hard resting against his belly and Ron is pretty sure he can’t breathe.

There’s this small sound, that kind of gets lost between the two of them and Ron isn’t sure if he made it or elicited it, but it’s so pretty, and something seems to break in Draco’s resistance – which is all just for show, they both know it, anyway – and then his arms are coming up around Ron’s neck and they’re kissing in earnest.

It’s not a very conscious act, but Ron is conscious of the effort Draco makes – the boy is so lithe in his hands so it’s far too easy to heave the hips up and Draco is straining his thighs and then he has him lifted and all around himself, pale thighs against his tan hips and graceful ankles locked at the small of his back.

Draco is ravenous – his kisses are addictive, his hands all over, and the sounds he makes, simply intoxicating and Ron can’t think, because everything is Draco and it’s so good. He pushes the blond up against the tiled wall and then kisses him harder, tastes watermelon and magic and he never wants to stop.

Except that Draco kind of makes a small mewling sound and he’s shifting his hips and moving his knees and his look is so intense – Ron doesn’t have to ask, the look itself is enough, and he’s so happy that the blond isn’t making him beg. He uses his fingers to explore the area first – experimentally because there is something very precarious about their position now – and almost moans when he realises he’s already prepped.

Draco is panting against his neck and he moves his hips again as if to say “please” and that’s enough. Ron meets his eyes and they’re so dark, gone nearly black with lust and Ron’s hands slip back to his hips and the skin goes up in goosebumps and it’s so pretty so he just kind of holds him there for a moment. He looks absolutely radiating in the early morning, all strong cheekbones and puffy kissed rose lips and there’s something really endearing about how high his knees are hitched up Ron’s side, how delicate his collarbone looks, waiting to be kissed.

The blond lets him indulge for a little, long lashes fluttering, but then he grows impatient, using his hands to trace over Ron’s abs, encouraging him into action. When the other man just continues staring, he huffs childishly, puffing to blow some of the hair, sticky at his forehead, away.

Ron follows the movements tenderly with his fingers, picking some strands and pushing them aside. He nuzzles into the pale collarbone and then mouths into the pale neck as he cants his hips. He almost feels Draco’s breath catch in his throat at the exact same moment that his dick catches on Draco’s rim and then slides back between his butt cheeks – his fingers dig into Ron’s skin where he’s holding him in anticipation and Ron kind of wishes he could capture this moment, how needy Draco is and how utterly captivating he is, too.

The angle is too awkward – he can’t find any comfortable way of sliding in so he moves his hands from the tender waist down to his buttocks and then lifts; a startled sound leaves Draco’s lips but then he moans as Ron’s fingers dig into his flesh and he gets the hint, strains the muscles in his back as he lifts his leg higher.

With one leg hooked effectively over his shoulder and the other thigh resting high up Ron’s waist Draco is presenting a rather fetching sight. He’s already panting, even though they’ve barely gotten started, and his whole chest is flushed with arousal, dick hard against his hip. Even now, he is as cocky as ever – his eyes are dark and boring into Ron’s, taunting him, daring him to make a move.

And then Draco’s hands tangle in his hair and he shifts his waist just so and—

If he waits any longer he might die, he’s pretty sure of it. So he kisses into Draco’s mouth, long and deep, and pushes his cock home as he does so and then he’s swallowing a moan from the blond, and another.

The position is not at all comfortable and Draco’s back is slipping against the tiled wall, so Ron settles for drawn-out deep strokes, making sure to push in all the way every single time. The rhythm is absolute torture because Draco’s body is so hot around him, he never wants to leave but then he also really just wants to pound into him until they’re both seeing stars. Life is hard.

He thinks maybe he’s crying, and from the way Draco is mewling between sobs he’s also pretty sure Draco is crying – they’re probably both crying because everything is so sensitive, Draco’s hands running down his back, the lips pressed against his chin, his dick throbbing between their bodies and—

“Ronald,” he knows he’s in trouble when Draco uses his full name but he looks so soft, tears caught in his lashes and glistening down his cheeks and his lips red with kisses – so sweet, Ron can’t resist another taste, “Ronald,” he murmurs into their kiss, soft desperation and no edges, “don’t stop—“ he’s hoarse with want and Ron punctuates the words with another deep thrust so that the blond needs to catch his breath, “don’t stop until I tell you to.”

He doesn’t sound very commanding, not like this, with his body bent double against the wall, hair falling messily into his eyes and his hips undulating, begging for Ron to take him deeper – there’s not a single second hesitation though, because Ron has no doubt that if he were to disobey he would suffer dearly for it later.

But Draco never tells him to stop, so he just has him until his knees start buckling in exhaustion. He pulls out – much to the blond’s disapproval, if his angry growl is anything to go by – and kisses the boy’s frustration away as he brings both of the pale thighs down to his hips. With his hands planted firmly on Draco’s buttocks he promptly walks him out of the shower stall and then before the look of surprise has settled on his face, he puts him down neatly on the counter.

All the complaints die on Draco’s lips as he realises what is going on and instead settles down on his elbows, spreading his thighs in a manner that should be outlawed – his chest is heaving, back an arch and his thighs pink, beautiful – it’s impossible for Ron to progress any further thought because Draco inviting him back into his body is about the only relevant thought, really.

The boy’s rim is swollen and pink but when he pushes against it, it yields easily, allowing Ron to slide in all the way. He tests their new position with two, three shallow thrusts and then he takes Draco’s hands, kisses into the palms, and sets them down against the edge of the counter. There’s no explanation needed – he’s pretty sure Draco can read his intentions clear from his face by now, because he doesn’t protest, doesn’t do anything except for pant a little harder and grasp at the counter, grip tight.

His hips just kind of snap and he sets a punishing rhythm – Draco practically whines at the first rough in-stroke and his knuckles are going white with the effort it takes him not to slide away – keeping the buttocks cradled in his hands so that he can pull the blond’s body off the counter to meet his thrusts every single time.

It doesn’t take very long – Draco throws his head back and his whole body goes absolutely rigid, but Ron keeps fucking into him, spurred on by the sound of his own name falling from those intoxicating lips as the blond cums all over his own chest and neck.

He’s not sure what it is exactly – the feeling of Draco’s body, the weight of his buttocks in his own big hands, the sight he makes with his chest flushed pink and his head thrown back; any number of things about Draco Malfoy could be Ron’s undoing at any given moment, really – but he follows ridiculously quickly after, pulling out just in time so he can spend himself all over Draco’s soft tummy.

He can’t do anything but stare. Draco’s hair is matted to his forehead and his chest is heaving, his legs spread obscenely and one hand is on Ron’s forearm and the other kind of wanders between his own thighs absentmindedly, as if trying to hide his spot. His eyes are closed and his lashes are fanned against his own cheeks delicately – his fingers stroking lazy patterns against Ron’s arm.

Ron bends forward idly pressing kisses against Draco’s pale side as he goes, and then he gently tugs away the boy’s hand to admire his own handiwork. The buttocks are pink where Ron gripped them, and his entrance is still twitching cutely. He sucks a hickey into Draco’s thigh and then hears the boy mewling and sucks another one into his hips, where his hands left some angry red marks too.

Draco gets up very languidly, all lean muscles and heavy breathing and his eyes are still closed when he nuzzles into Ron’s collarbone, bites at it and then nibbles at his shoulder instead. He stays cuddled there until his breathing slows down, and Ron feels his lashes flutter against his own skin before the boy looks up at him – the dark storm has simmered down and is replaced with a satisfied molten silver.

Ron strokes his fingers down the tender back and lets Draco’s fingers weave through his hair and then he gets little kitten kisses pressed all over his face and he thinks this is it I’m in love this is it.

And then he doesn’t think very much of anything, because Draco hops off the counter with way too much swagger for a man who's just been so thoroughly fucked and he turns up the sound on his cellphone, still on repeat, and the boy sings “’cause love is a game we deserve to play out loud,” and Draco throws a wink over his shoulder and then disappears back into the shower.

Ron likes to think he just really adores the boy, but to be honest he would also just follow that butt anywhere.

They shower properly this time and Draco lets him press kisses all down his back and he’s always just running his hands up and down Draco’s shoulders and he thinks maybe he just never wants to let go of his hand.

It’s still ridiculously early when they finish up washing and even as Draco undoes the silence spell he cast on the bathroom the flat is still mostly quiet – they end up on the sofa, with Draco watching television as Ron snuggles into his stomach. The silk of Draco’s robe is soft against his cheek, and he has the boy’s hand tangled in his own hair, the other entwined with his own and he’s pretty sure this is what happiness feels like.

***

Chapter Text

Number Twenty-Two: Lewd or just Rude?

 

They go to the zoo that day, and take too many pictures so that Ron has to erase some of his older ones to clear space on his phone. Teddy is radiating, he is finally getting the hang of fixing his look – so that he can stop it from changing suddenly – and he’s always just pulling at their hands and pointing out the various sort of animals.

That night he almost cries when Andromeda comes to pick him up, but Cassiopeia presses him really close and Pansy ruffles his now-jet-black hair and Draco holds him close and kisses his forehead and to Ron he says, “thank you,” and Ron knows he means, “thank you for taking pictures and having it not be awkward,” but from the way he’s glancing over at the blond he maybe also means “thank you for loving Draco,” and either way it’s a pretty devastating moment. So they hug and kiss some more and then they promise to have him over again soon and he leaves with tear streaks down his cheeks but a smile so wide all his canines are showing.

They sleep together that night too, and they do just sleep because they’re both pretty exhausted after their early morning romp and a whole day of matching vibrancy with Teddy. It's a little strange but also a little magical, because Ron hasn't slept in Draco's room in about a week and he's kind of missed the pretty wooden panelling and the white canopy.

He gets into bed and feels a little lanky in his black linen pyjamas – they've only ever fallen to this bed together, before – but then he gets to watch Draco sit in front of his vanity and apply his face cream and rub in his skin lotion and it makes his pale skin shimmer like there's thousands of little diamonds hidden there now. He's wearing the same silk shorts and the silk robe he had in the morning and he looks so relaxed, so at home in this space that Ron just feels everything very tenderly and he snaps a photo with his phone just because he can now, it's not strange at all to take pictures of the boy you're dating.

The thought startles him a little because he's in Draco Malfoy's bed taking secret pictures of the boy rubbing lotion into his calves and it sounds like it should be a weird thought, instead of such an endearing one.

He sleeps absolutely brilliantly, Draco warm and soft all along his back, the boy’s soft breath lulling him to sleep. When he wakes up the blond has already left for work but he’s left a message and signed it xoxo and it’s all he needs to power through the day.

Ginny is waiting for him outside of the building that hides the Daily Prophet HQ, and she’s wearing a yellow sundress with a blazer and her face is a mix of pure excitement and anticipation. When she greets him he gets a kiss on his cheek, a very rare sign of affection.

She seems a little nervous, but she hides it behind a big smile as she shows him their offices and jokes with one of her co-workers. He spends a lot of time signing scraps of papers and notes, and then even more time taking selfies when she introduces him to her colleagues at the sports department, where she aspires to work one day. Ron doesn't know whether her colleagues know what the interview will be about, but they're all very hearty and excited to meet him, which makes him a lot less nervous.

He meets Luna – whom he hasn't seen in ages, and who is showing, just very slightly, the baby bump barely there – and she's working on an article on mystical creatures, her field of research. She hugs him very very tight and he feels something in his chest and then he feels something else but equally tender when Ginny slips her hand down Luna's waist in what she tries to hide as a casual move.

They sit down in one of the offices with a photographer who snaps some shots as Ginny prepares her parchment and quill. They talk about Quidditch mostly, for the first half of the talk, about how Ron started at Hogwarts, about how he's lovingly pursued a career later, and how he had abruptly quit. They talk about his successes a lot, and when they talk about his resignation, Ginny doesn't make it sound like a failure, for which he is infinitely grateful.

They kind of Segway into how he's met someone who's made him realise there's other things in life he wants, too, like cooking great food for the people he loves and spending more time with them, too. He talks about how he feels when he's thinking of recipes, and how Quidditch once made him feel the same, but not anymore. How Quidditch was something he did for the looks it made other people give him, but food is something he does for the love it lets him show them. Now he plays Quidditch for fun, not for sport, and he likes it a lot more this way.

She asks him, quite crudely: "what did your team mates say when they found out about your sexuality," and before he can remember that this is an interview and he should weigh his words correctly before speaking, he just kind of says, "they never knew."

They talk about Hogwarts, and the war.

"There was never any time," he explains, "it just doesn't seem like such a big deal when every year your education is getting messed up over the imminent return of You-Know-Who. It are feelings you have and you put them somewhere away, my best friend was struggling and that was just more of a priority. Nothing else seems to matter when people you love need you."

Ginny is endeared by his words, he can tell because even though she's been keeping a serious face, a kind of tenderness seems to fall over it. She asks him if it was hard, putting aside a love life for what seems like a poor substitute of mostly terror.

"Well I got to date the minister for magic for a while, I count that as a win," he shrugs, grinning as he thinks of what Hermione will say when she reads his words. Probably accuse him of being a tease and throw something at his head, before dotting over him and his newfound courage as they have lunch in her office.

"So would you consider yourself bisexual?" it's the first question really addressing the nature of his sexuality, and to be honest, he has to give it some thought before replying.

Except that when he tries to think about it, he can only seem to think about Draco, all cocky and brimming with self-confidence, and then perhaps not so much self-confidence and then just Draco in a lot of unhealthy pale colours and Draco saying "I can't tell for sure" and then much much later Draco with loose rambunctious locks, glittering eyes and shimmering cheek bones, Draco in colourful big t-shirts, in precisely measured three piece suits, Draco naked and draped all over Ron's bed, chest and cock deep pink. And suddenly it just seems like a really stupid question.

"Nope," he replies casually, "I'm pretty sure I'm gay."

The photographer snaps a picture and Ron wonders about whether this one will make its way into the interview and what it will say. "Face of young athlete after he told us he's gay"?

"So are you seeing anyone?" it almost sounds like she's just a sister, asking her brother about his love life, but he knows it's probably more than that.

The look she gives him though, makes him think that maybe she's not so angry about him moving in with two Slytherins anymore – maybe she's forgiven him, because he's always been her favourite brother. Maybe she still loves him a lot and she wants to overlook everything that's ever gone wrong.

Maybe he's optimistic, but her face absolutely lights up when he answers, "I am," and he knows she'll be asking him all about it over drinks later.

"I’ve liked him for ages, he’s so clever and supportive, always so kind and patient. If I haven’t seen him the day feels wasted, and just seeing him smile makes me feel like I’m on top of the world. He’s just always encouraging me to strive for what I want. It's still pretty new but he makes me want to be a better person every day," it's not a lie, but he sees gears turning in his sister's head as she's trying to figure it out, her quill never once stilling.

She asks about his newfound activism and he explains how they’d been out together when they were ambushed by homophobic muggles and how stupid he had felt afterwards, never having realised homophobia was a thing. He uses his hands a lot as he continues, talking about how he always felt like he was fighting a war against the bad guys, protecting the good guys, while some of these good guys had been harassing and tormenting his queer friends at Hogwarts all along.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he says, and, “I should have been more attentive. I hurt my loved ones with my inattentiveness, I can never forgive myself.”

There’s a few more questions and then the photographer wants to take them down to the studios where he has to take some really horrendous pictures; the photographer wants him in a suit, and then in his old Chudley Cannons uniform, and then in nothing but briefs – which is embarrassing enough without his sister standing by watching idly, the photographer wolf whistling at his hickeys and scratch marks.

He feels a little self-conscious about the chub he knows he’s gathered, and he promises himself he will go by the gym after the interview has finished, if only just to soothe his conscience.

When the photographer has finished, Ginny takes him back up to the office where they held the interview – to his surprise, she fishes a bottle of fire whiskey out from one of the drawers, shaking it suggestively.

“Ginny, it’s barely ten!” he objects, but she just grins as she plops down two glasses.

“Usually I would do this over proper drinks in a proper bar, but I’m going to be working late to finish this article tonight,” she pours him two thumbs of the whiskey and then sits down across from him, her glass a little bit fuller than strictly necessary for the early hour.

They just sit and drink for a moment – mostly Ginny does, because without her quill and parchment she suddenly seems unsure of where to put her hands and where to direct her eyes – but he hopes his open attitude encourages her to ask what he knows she’s dying to.

“So,” she says eventually, unable to hide the eagerness from her voice, “you’re seeing this random new person!”

“Well… not really,” he admits, because Draco is not a random new person, by any means.

Her face scrunches up in thought, and then, “is it Harry?”

Ron nearly spits out his drink.

“I think Harry is straight,” his voice sounds very high and he has to cough to get it back to normal, much to Ginny’s enjoyment, “Merlin Ginny, I would never!”

“He’s handsome,” she shrugs, and now she’s grinning and she reminds him of Ginny his sister instead of Ginny writer of an article which is basically about my sex life, “I can’t think of any queer guy we know who isn’t taken,” her looks turns kind of dark, but he waves a hand in her face before she can even go there.

“I am not the other man!” he feels a little insulted that so many people appear to think him the type for it, and now when he takes a sip it’s in earnest, “I guess we’ve known some queer people without really knowing them, you know?”

She doesn’t seem to, because she just kind of looks at him as if he’s grown an extra head, and as if maybe his extra head is actually the head of a banshee.

“Ron,” she says very factually, “I know every queer kid at Hogwarts.”

Ron doesn’t doubt that she knows every queer Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff at Hogwarts. He very much doubts she would have wanted to come within five inches of the queer Slytherins though. He just isn’t sure how to say that, without having her make that face again.

“I mean…” she seems to reconsider then, after some silence, thankfully without needing prompting, “except for maybe the Sly—“ she makes the connection before she even finishes her sentence, and then she kind of just stares at him again.

She’s not making the second-head-is-a-banshee face though, her expression is very blank, which is less scary, but still pretty damn scary, too.

Then, as if fearing that if she talks too quickly the delicate dots she has connected will dissolve before her, she says: “you knew he has a canopy.”

This time it’s Ron’s turn to make a face because he legitimately has no idea what she’s on about.

“When I came to your place and taunted him about his dark mark, you said he has a canopy and waters succulents and how would you know that if you weren’t…” she makes a very dirty hand gesture, to which Ron’s eyes narrow.

“I could have known he has a canopy for other reasons!” he defends, because actually he had seen Draco’s canopy way before he ever saw Draco naked, “but I mean…” he doesn’t really know what to say now, because Ginny is still just sitting there with her hands mid-air, “I mean yes. We’re dating. I mean, we weren’t technically when I told you about the canopy but…” he makes the same hand gesture and he feels really stupid doing it, but Ginny is actually smiling.

“Hermione had a hunch, but I couldn’t believe it!” she says, and she doesn’t look angry or upset or disgusted, “he was such a twat at Hogwarts, but even I kind of thought he was charming when you had us over.”

Ron doesn’t know what to say, but then maybe he’s saying it all with his dumbfounded facial expression, because suddenly Ginny is off her chair and she kind of kneels in front of him so that she can bury her face in his lap, like she used to do when they were younger and she wanted to share something she found embarrassing with him – more often than not it were whispered “I stole Fred’s cookie”s and “I missed you while you were at Hogwarts”s.

“It’s so okay Ron,” it’s all muffled in his jeans and he’s pretty sure she’s blushing, “you were always so cool about me and Luna, not once did you jest or joke and I know I’ve been horrid but if you like him that’s good enough for me because Ron you’re a great judge of character, I can’t imagine you liking anyone who isn’t a good person,” she presses her face tighter into his lap and he strokes his hands through her hair soothingly – he decides not to tell her about how the Spanish boy he used to date turned out to be an international art’s thief though.

They promise to meet for drinks out later in the week and then he heads over to the gym and he thinks it’s just the perfect time, because after all that’s happened this morning he really needs to put his mind elsewhere.

He works out until he’s sweating so much rivulets are running down his temple and he takes a quick shower at the gym and is still sweating even after he’s dried off. There’s a message on his phone from Draco when he checks it after he’s apparated back to the flat, “Amanda is asking you to come over for lunch” it says, and he’s added a little puking emoticon.

He checks the fridge for leftovers, and there’s enough in there to feed a small army so he messages back, “you get the wine I’ll bring the food” and before he’s even packed everything in Tupperware there’s another pling! of his phone, “Ronald, it’s barely noon!” and he’s smiling all the way over to the hospital.

He’s still in his running shorts and his tank top and he’s probably still a little sweaty again and definitely still high on endorphins. The nurses smile and wave at him and he waves back in what surely is a very silly manner but he literally cannot care. His sister had crawled back into his lap like she hadn’t done since their last year at Hogwarts and he feels as if all his broken pieces are being mended perfectly.

He sees Draco standing by his desk before he sees anything else, and maybe he’s gone crazy but he imagines the boy as if he is a vision, gleaming in the sunlight, and he's looking exceptionally handsome today. His hair is loose and falling into his face, and he's wearing grey linen pants that are low on his waist and a grey linen suit jacket with a white dress shirt and his broad hips are beautifully accentuated and maybe it's the endorphins but he thinks he falls in love all over again.

Draco looks a little surprised to see him and then he looks even more surprised when Ron just walks right up to him – he opens his mouth to say something, but decides against it when Ron’s palms cup his face and Ron kind of pushes his nose into Draco’s and then kisses him very tenderly. He doesn’t want anything, just the warm press of their lips together and how good Draco smells.

The pale hands run up his arms and then Draco’s brows raise to meet his hair, “you’re sweaty,” he murmurs, tone confused.

“I went to the gym,” Ron goes in for another kiss, lets his hands fall to Draco’s hips because he longs to hold him properly – then he hears a cough, and when he turns to the side he realises Amanda and Doctor Dickhead are already seated in the office, by the side table.

Amanda looks flustered and he guesses he should be too, considering how they rarely even kiss in front of people they know, but then he also finds that right now, in this moment, with Draco’s hips in his hands, he doesn’t care. Instead he just grins, and holds up one hand with his bag of Tupperware, “I brought food!” he announces happily, and then he lets go of the blond’s body and there’s nothing awkward about it.

He puts the bag on the glass side table while Draco gets them plates, and then his phone buzzes in his pocket. The caller ID says “cutie with a bootie” and a little heart, and it takes him a moment to realise that Pansy must have changed some of his id’s around when he wasn’t looking. A little anxious he answers, and then breathes out a sigh in relief as Cassiopeia chirps, “Ron! Where are you boo?”

“I’m in the hospital,” he says it without thinking, because mostly he’s still kind of scrolling through his contacts to see what else has changed – it seems as if Pansy has messed up all of them, except for Draco’s, and some reason, Blaise’s.

“What?!” she shrieks so loud he’s happy he’s not holding the phone by his ear, and Amanda visibly flinches in her chair.

“No I mean I’m with Draco,” Ron quickly goes to explain, and then before he can accentuate that he’s in fact, fine, he hears her whine, “but I wanted to have lunch with you.”

He meets Draco’s eye, the blond waving his hand impatiently, “well invite her over!”

“Draco says you can come,” he says into the receiver, replied by an instant cheer of happiness and then a more subdued, “where you guys at?”

Ron goes to reply except then he realises he has no idea. Pansy had told him the name of the hospital and explained how to take a taxi there, but he’d never even memorised the address – saying the place’s name had always been enough for any cabby.

He’s not sure how to say this without his whole face lighting up red with embarrassment, but Draco is still looking at him, smile turning cheeky as he prompts, “tell her it’s where we first met.”

Ron frowns, but tells Cassiopeia just that, and she sighs dreamily into her receiver, “oh Draco, ever the romantic!” and then continues pensively, “what about Pansy?”

“She’s wondering about Pansy,” Ron asks the blond, just as he seats himself on the sofa, gently taking off his suit jacket.

This time there is no cheeky smile or cheerful twinkle hiding in his eye, as instead he just scowls, “we’re not conjoined at the hip you know.”

Ron does his best not to laugh, because he does really enjoy teasing Draco and Pansy about their closer-than-might-be-strictly-speaking-healthy friendship, but then he also really enjoys having all his clothes being their original colour and all his ingredients being not-spiked and not having to worry about when – never if – he will be cornered by two seething Slytherins who know curses that would hurt but not leave a trace.

So instead he winks at Draco as he replies, “he says they’re not conjoined at the hip but I’m pretty sure he knows exactly where she is,” because winking is about as inconspicuous as he gets, and Draco seems to have a fondness for it.

Draco merely rolls his eyes and takes out his phone, quickly pressing the keys to send his best friend a message. Cassiopeia coos into the phone, “can he ask her what she’s wearing?”

“Umm…” Ron is relatively sure that’s not a thing he can actually ask – and not just because he doesn’t want to think about what Pansy may or may not be wearing – but Draco is looking at him expectantly, apparently aware that he is still the topic of discussion.

Sometimes Ron wonders if his occlumency skills are so good that he uses them even unconsciously – after all, he learned from his mother, and she was the best occlumency anyone had ever met. When Draco continues to look at him, face carefully blank – a sign that he would be very disappointed if Ron did not honestly share the content of their discussion about him right now – Ron clears his throat a little awkwardly, “she wants to know what Pansy’s wearing and if maybe you can ask her?”

At this Draco’s eyes turn to slits and Amanda tries her best to hide her snicker disguising it as a cough. He gets up from the couch very stiffly and just holds out his hand, wordlessly demanding Ron’s phone – the redhead doesn’t even hesitate because he loves Draco but he also recognises him as a force to be reckoned with.

“I am not sexting her for you,” Draco sneers into the receiver, his voice cold.

Ron can hear Cassiopeia giggle – he would never, but then he also figures that Pansy is about just as scary as Draco is, and Cassiopeia never seemed very scared of her either – and she happily chirps, “I would sext Ron for you!”

He’s blushing now, he’s sure – it’s only fair, because this conversation has taken a whole different turn all of a sudden and now he can’t stop thinking of Draco and him and sexting.

“I’m sure you would,” Draco grounds out, “you bisexuals are so greedy.”

“I’m pan,” Ron hears Cassiopeia reply, “and yes, yes we are.”

Draco rolls his eyes again and then very deliberately hangs up the phone, giving it back to Ron wordlessly. He turns to the closet behind his desk so he can take two extra plates from it, and Ron starts on taking out his Tupperware, opening them one by one so he can dress their plates. Amanda makes excited noises and even Doctor Dickhead seems uprightly interested in the food now – his look still lingers on Draco wherever the other man goes, though, and it annoys Ron endlessly.

The girls show up a little while later – Cassiopeia is as cheerful as ever, if not a little flustered with her cheeks pinkly tinged, leaving nothing to the imagination of what she and Pansy had been up to – stylishly dressed as ever. The blonde is wearing a pink lady-suit that matches the colour of her dip-dyed hair and white stilettos. She greets the other doctors with a sugar-sweet smile and a handshake, careful to catch their names and repeat them to make sure she gets them right.

Pansy is not at all like her charming self – it’s a strange thought to have, but there it is, because despite her temperament and her deceptive nature, Pansy could charm the knickers off a nun if she wanted to – with her black dress and dark eye make-up she makes a strong contrast to Cassiopeia.

When doctor Dickhead reaches out to shake her hand, she just gives him an icy look, “I’m a bitch, don’t even bother,” and Ron will never admit it but he does very much adore it when her cruelties are directed at people whom he dislikes.

“Damn Weasley,” she whistles when her eyes spot him, letting them trail down his body just long enough for him to start feeling uncomfortable, “what are you wearing?”

“I went to the gym!” he answers defensively – she looks beyond amused now, her red lips drawn in a smirk, “my biceps were starting to feel weak.”

At these words she rolls her eyes, flopping down across from her friends, “please, your biceps are the size of my face,” she rummages around her purse as Cassiopeia sits down between her and doctor Amanda, Ron finishing up the preparation of their plates, “look what I brought!” and with those chipper words she pulls a whole damn bottle of mysterious liquor out of her bag.

Draco makes a face, but before he can say anything the raven head is already getting up to find some glasses in the closet, bristling, “obviously you boring dolts can’t have any, but my writing is better when I’m tipsy and Cassiopeia is all finished for the day,” she brings over three tumblers, giving Ron a devious look, “what’d you say Weasley.”

He would love to say he’s not tempted because it’s just noon, but then he’s already had a drink back with Ginny and it’s not like he has anything needed doing that requires him to be sober. Next to him Draco is eyeing Pansy suspiciously, but he doesn’t seem too worried about whether or not Ron accepts that drink – from the way his body has gone tense and his eyes keep trying to meet his friend’s, Ron can tell it’s actually Pansy’s behaviour that worries him.

Well, if she’s going to insist on ignoring her friend’s silent cries for attention – which is odd, because those two’s non-verbal communication is so fine-tuned they could be gossiping about the waiter with their eyes while talking to two completely different people at the same time – Ron is pretty sure there’s nothing he can do to do be supportive in this situation besides indulge her.

He takes one of the tumblers and tips it her way, “hit me up.”

The lunch is actually remarkably pleasant; Cassiopeia and Amanda make small talk about their favourite shopping spots in the city, and Draco is always either glancing at Pansy or smiling at him and he absolutely loves it. Doctor Dickhead gets called away early and Amanda entertains them with some none-gory work stories that make them all laugh. Everyone is making pleased sounds as they scoop up seconds and Cassiopeia happily pats her full stomach and he is just so happy to be here with these people and to have prepared them something that they’re enjoying.

Eventually doctor Amanda also leaves to continue her shift, taking the plates with her as she goes and thanking Ron profoundly – maybe her gaze lingers a bit, but Ron is pretty sure the way his hand is always on Draco’s knee or arm or shoulder speaks loud and clear.

Pansy – whose been very quiet and whose probably had half the bottle by herself by now – refills their glasses and then downs hers in one go. Cassiopeia is worrying her lip and Ron is pretty sure this is not normal Pansy Parkinson behaviour because he’s had a sip of his drink and it’s definitely not wine, which in itself is just weird. Next to him, Draco shifts, tipping his head to the side as he continues to just look at his best friend.

When she looks up and their eyes meet, she sighs very deeply – as if perhaps there’s been a “Biggest Idiot Alive” competition and she’s won first place – and says almost painfully casual, “alright so I might have gotten fired.”

Ron doesn’t know what to say – he can tell from the way Cassiopeia’s hand finds Pansy’s back the blonde had already known – because he’s never been fired before, and mostly he’s not sure whether Pansy is sad to have lost her job, or just sad because she perceives it as failure. Slytherins are complicated.

Luckily Draco is fluent in Slytherin, and he promptly downs his glass of water and then fills it to the brim with the amber liquor from Pansy’s bottle – she looks like she’s going to protest, but he waves any forthcoming complaints off with a, “I’m just doing rounds today and surely someone else can cover them,” and it’s clear they all know it’s probably a lie, but no one says anything.

They clink their glasses together and Draco toasts, “to the baddest bitch; what doesn’t kill you, better run!” finally a resemblance of Pansy’s normal self finds its way back into her features as she grins, baring her teeth.

And then they drink.

Pansy gets drunk too quick and she also get very touchy; she’d already had almost half the bottle to herself and Cassiopeia makes it sound like she had probably already been tipsy when the two of them met up in front of the hospital. She gets giggly, like she had the night Cassiopeia and Ron found her dancing on the couch, but now instead of dancy she gets gropey, mouth finding its way to Cassiopeia’s neck and then refusing to let go.

Draco looks amused and a little bit spacey himself, a smile playing over his lips as he regards the scene of a flustered blonde and the over-zealous raven. Cassiopeia whole face has gone red, but it doesn’t take a genius to realise she’s torn between enjoyment and embarrassment, so Ron just gives her a wink and waves her off.

She gets the hint, mutters a lame apology and then apparates both of them out of the office before Pansy can have her way with her right there on Draco’s couch.

There’s a small snort coming from somewhere by Ron’s shoulder, where the blond is now hiding his face, body suddenly slumping rather adoringly into his own. Draco’s hand finds his against the fabric of their shared seat, and he presses a wet open-mouthed kiss into Ron’s bare skin.

Ron feels mostly fondness now, for how generous Draco is in his affections when there’s no one there to witness it. He runs his fingers through Draco’s hair, gently lets them trace patterns at the nape of the blond’s neck, and then dips down to press a kiss to the plush mouth. Draco smiles into it, makes a satisfied sound in the back of his throat, and then hums, “let’s go home.”

They play a game of chess in the living room, with Draco in his neat pants and proper shirt and soft socks, smiling at Ron as he thinks about his next move. Even slightly-tipsy Draco takes chess very seriously, and Ron would have it no other way. They are halfway through their second game when the door to Pansy’s bedroom opens and Cassiopeia passes by the living on her way to the bathroom, giving the both of them a far-too-enthusiastic wave.

Draco takes it as his cue to press a quick kiss to Ron’s forehead before disappearing into Pansy’s room instead.

He puts the chess board to the side so that they can resume their game later, and then flips through the channels. Cassiopeia joins him after her quick shower, and then watch some random movie together while talking, the blonde’s head in his lap.

They’re just talking about what they’ll do for food when Draco comes back into the room – his face is a little pink, so perhaps Pansy has been feeding him some more alcohol – announcing that they won’t be able to join for dinner.

“The Parkinsons are holding a party, so I’m on straight boyfriend duty,” he waves his hand absentmindedly and then without any further explanation turns around and walks back to his room, presumably to get a potion to sober up.

Cassiopeia is so ridiculously unimpressed – she just flips the channel again, thudding her foot against the arm of the sofa as if Draco had not just uttered one of the strangest sentences ever heard by mankind.

“Um…” when his friend continues to just stare at the television, he pokes her side to get her attention, “straight boyfriend duty? Is that a thing?”

“Oh haven’t you heard?” she blinks her big eyes up at him curiously, mirth hiding there at the realisation that for once, she knows something about the Slytherins that Ron doesn’t, “the Parkinsons are homophobic, so Draco pretends to be her boyfriend at family functions. She used to do the same for him, but all the relatives who cared are dead apparently,” her casual shrug tells him Pansy must have been pretty uncaring herself when she explained.

Ron looks back at the television and tries to picture it, just the whole aesthetic of it, and he has to admit he can totally see it working. After all, they had gone to the Yule Ball together and their outfits had matched beautifully, their bodies in sync as they had danced. And then now they were always jibbing each other but there was no denying that they loved each other – if they played their cards right, they could very well appear as any other straight couple, Ron was sure.

He tries not to think about the other part of the whole story; that Pansy has been hiding from her parents all her life, and that she is so afraid of their rejection that she’s gotten her best friend to play her boyfriend instead of coming out.

Then he hears Pansy call, “bae! Bae! Damnit Draco bae means you now!” followed by the sound of Draco rushing from his room and bumping into a chair as he shouts back, “I’m sorry pumpkin!” and it’s just too funny.

Cassiopeia’s eyes meet his and they both start snickering. Pansy slams her door shut, but not until she’s shouted, “FUCK YOU! STRAIGHT PEOPLE USE STUPID NICKNAMES OKAY? IT’S A VERY STRAIGHT THING TO DO!” which only causes them to start giggling even louder, Cassiopeia desperately hiding her face in his thigh to still her chuckles.

To be honest though, not a single person in the whole flat is fit to judge what is “a straight thing to do”, so Ron supposes they shouldn’t be so hard on the two Slytherins; they’re giving it their ultra-best, and deserve a P for effort, really.

And he means that too, definitely when the two leave Pansy’s bedroom after another hour and a half, sobered up from their potion, and looking like they’re ready to kill. Pansy is wearing a long dark green gown, with the lace sleeves falling down her shoulders and she’s done her makeup even more meticulously than usual, her stilettos so thin Ron is quite sure they could double as a murder weapon if necessary.

Ron would never dream of admitting he is biased in any way, really, and Pansy looks so stunning in her dress, the trench dragging behind her gracefully, that she has his full attention for the whole five seconds it takes for Draco to step out next.

He’s wearing the most luxurious emerald robes Ron has ever laid eyes on, with intricate details on his cravat and his under-robes tailored to fit his tapered waist perfectly. There’s some fine silver jewellery around his neck and atop the cravat, and he’s wearing his heavy-set rings, some baring what Ron assumes is the Malfoy crest. His fingers are so graceful, Ron wants them to weave into his own, hypnotised as he watches them move up to fix his cravat.

And then there’s that shimmer on his face again – his cheekbones aglow, the tip of his nose glittering beautifully in the light. Ron can’t stop watching it, watching him, the way his hair falls into his face and the way his cheekbones look even more sharp and defined with the sparkle there.

“You’re all glowy,” he realises in retrospect that he probably should have explained a little bit better than just say that and then reach out to brush his fingers down Draco’s jawline, but it’s also kind of worth it to see the blond turn to him, eyes widening in surprise.

Pansy giggles and fishes something out of her purse, “it’s called highlight,” she shows him a small black container which looks like the ones Cassiopeia uses for her concealer.

When she pops it open it’s just this kind of translucent silvery powder, and she rubs a finger into it as she explains, unusually gentle, “this shade won’t match your skin tone but basically you use it to highlight the features you want to,” she continues to carefully apply it to his skin, and he’s not sure why but he doesn’t feel ridiculous.

Draco has the fondest smile on her face as Pansy concentrates on what she’s doing, and Ron finds himself wondering if she does this for him too – takes a look at his face and helps him accentuate the right places to make him look even more God-like? He reminds himself to ask later, about Slytherin slumber parties and whether or not Pansy taught him to do make-up – the idea just kind of hits him, and he knows he’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

She finishes up with a wink, Draco pressing a kiss to the area she just highlighted. Cassiopeia takes a picture of the pair of them, much to Pansy’s amusement – “it’s like the Yule ball all over again” – and they even do a silly pose just because Ron and Cassiopeia ask them to.

Before they leave Draco gives Pansy one of his rings and Ron knows it doesn’t mean anything – at least not now because they are very much just friends and this is all part of their lure to convince the world that they are in fact the perfect het couple – except that you know, technically, and mostly traditionally, it does mean something. Ron isn’t exactly the most traditional pureblood in the world, but even his parents talked to him about what giving away your crest means, and if the Weasleys tell the stories, surely so do the Malfoys.

It kind of makes his stomach feel a little funny, but not in the best of ways.

The two Slytherins leave in a flourish of waving fabrics and exaggerated winks as they get into the fireplace, and then suddenly the flat just feels very empty to Ron, even with Cassiopeia right beside him.

Chapter Text

Number Twenty-Three: Dancing Dragons

She seems to notice the change in his mood almost immediately, so she decides to take him out for dinner instead of having him mope around. They go to a Japanese restaurant, because she has a craving, and they eat ridiculously expensive sushi that is only "mediocre" according to her. The umeshu is not as good as the one her mother makes, but it's just sweet enough and they get extras of the green tea ice cream and refill their drinks. He forgets all about the ring and the awkward feeling in his stomach as they talk about anything that comes to mind and take silly selfies that Cassiopeia covers in cute stickers.

It's still quite early when they come back home, so they steal a bottle of Pansy's wine – " borrow " Cassiopeia insists, "because she'll notice and we'll have to replace is" – and drink a glass while watching funny videos on Instagram.

It's a little past nine when Cassiopeia's phone buzzes with a text.

"Were iut drinkgl cul" it reads, from "Queen P".

They share an uncertain look with each other, but then Cassiopeia shrugs her shoulders and scrolls down her feed so they can check out a cat video.

"M alfeady drukk" reads the small pop up on her screen next. Followed by a quick, "hiffu" with a bunch of seemingly completely random and unrelated emoticons, consisting out of a flamingo, a chicken leg and a cookie, Ron briefly wondering what on earth Pansy texts about on a daily basis.

Before he can wonder too much , his own phone beeps. Cassiopeia makes a kind of face as their eyes meet, but then it’s Ron’s time to shrug as he fishes out his phone.

It’s from Draco and it’s perfectly legible, which he just can’t wait to show Cassiopeia – so maybe he’s a little childish, but then he’s also very proud that Draco never texts him chicken leg emoticons.

“Pansy is off her rocks drunk and trying very valiantly to invite you and Cas to come drink with us,” Draco on the other hand sounds completely sober, and Ron blushes as the next message is an address and a bunch of kissy emoticons – so maybe Draco is tipsy , or just in a romantic mood? Ron’ll take it either way.

Cassiopeia is more amused than annoyed that Draco is somehow a complete gentlemen even when writing tipsy messages, and they get ready in her room where she tries on a whole array of pretty dresses and tight jeans with crop tops. She dresses Ron just because she keeps talking and distracting him so that he’s been undressed and re-dressed before he really realises, and he ends up in nicely fitting pants and a white linen dress shirt she insists he rolls up to his elbows for some reason.

They have a little pre-drink just because they can and then after taking a bunch of selfies and Cassiopeia changing shoes four times they apparate to the spot closest to the bar. The entrance is skilfully sealed behind what looks like an old graffiti tag in an alley stinking of garbage and urine, but Cassiopeia traces the edges with her wand and the door appears together with a wizard wearing all black, checking their wands before they’re allowed to go inside.

Ron has never been to this particular place before, but it’s just like most other clubs he’s been to, packed full with people on the dance floor, and booths near the far end of the wall for people who just want to drink.

Despite the crowd, it is embarrassingly easy to spot Pansy. She’s wearing a long black chiffon dress that curves her thin hips, with the shoulder bands falling down and her small breasts looking perky in the fabric. She is also on top of a table, shaking her body to the tune, a cocktail in each hand as she belts out the lyrics to the song, with the people surrounding her cheering her on.

“Did Pansy change her clothes?” Ron has to shout to reach over the music, Cassiopeia’s eyes already glued to her not-girlfriend.

“I’m pretty sure that’s her slip,” Cassiopeia cries out, and Ron has no idea what a slip is but it must be something scandalous if the blonde’s facial expression is anything to go by.

They split up, so that Cassiopeia can head over to where Pansy is dancing – now accompanied by Theodore Nott, who she has very clumsily pulled on top of the table with her – and Ron can go check the booths, where he thinks he spotted Blaise Zabini.

He thinks probably Draco sees him before he sees Draco – an odd thought, because surely it is Draco who is the kind of person to stand out in a crowd – because when he does locate the blond, those silver eyes are already alit, fixed firmly on his frame.

His cravat has gone, and the first few buttons of his under-robes are undone, baring part of his pale chest. The popping scala of red green and blue lights flickering up ahead should be unflattering, but it makes Draco’s cheekbones shimmer beautifully, and there’s this strip of sweat on his collar bone, so painfully obvious in the bright lights that Ron kind of just wants to lick it off.

Except he doesn’t get the chance to. There’s a whole crowd of people surrounding them but he sees only the determination in Draco’s face as he steps into his space – before he can formulate any words, the pale hands find his neck and he is brought in close. The kiss ignites sparkles behind his eyelids.

They don’t usually do this kind of thing – they haven’t kissed out in public since their first date – and it’s stupid how really good it feels. Partly because this is all Draco initiating it and he does really like it when the blond takes control and also just because he feels so wanted , so much warmth in this moment. Like Draco’s soft fingers playing into his hair, knuckles gracing his chin as he gets tilted into it, and he’s overwhelmed with it.

His hands find Draco’s hips and he wants to keep him there forever, never wants to have to let go ever again. Everything is so soft , despite the heat and the tongue and Draco’s teeth . There’s rough edges but even they make his heart stutter with the feel of it. He thinks he’s addicted.

They kiss for maybe eons. Ron’s hands are kind of all over the place because he’s feeling at the shorter sides of Draco’s blond hair and then letting it trail into the wavy locks and then down his neck and to his shoulder and the other hand is very unsubtly trying to feel up his booty and he has literally no regrets.

They are, in Ron’s opinion, very rudely interrupted when somebody taps him on the shoulder, and he has to restrain himself not to say anything mean to the waiter who’s come up to them. Except that then he realises Draco’s eyes have gone glossy and his cheeks have this really pretty pink hue and he thinks he can’t probably say anything at this moment anyway because the sight of Draco just takes his breath away.

The waiter is holding two cocktails which are orange at the top and yellow at the bottom, and have small candied dragons in them that appear to be spitting fire and flapping their wings.

“From the gentleman over there,” the waiter explains, pointing in the general direction of the booths before disapparating back to the bar.

Now Ron’s first instinct in to be insulted because he’s just been all up in Draco’s space and that’s about as clear as a “this boy is taken” sign gets, isn’t it? But sensing his discomfort, Draco curls up into his side and leaves little nips against his throat – a move that is so unexpected and brings pleasurable goosebumps up his flesh and Ron just kind of goes blank – and then clinks their glasses together before curiously taking a sip of his own drink.

He studies the booths just to make sure Blaise isn’t treating them – because he’ll have to return the favour then – and instead finds such a familiar face he nearly drops his drink right there and then.

Charlie’s gotten a short bob since last Ron saw him, hair reaching just to his chin. He’s grinning from ear to ear, waving a mug of what looks like foamy chocolate milk at him to get his attention. He’s wearing jean dungarees and a striped t-shirt, sitting in his booth with three other wizards Ron has never met – one of them has magnificent yellow hair, the other has put his long locks up in a bun using what appears to be his wand, and one man has apparently passed out against the wall.

He’s not sure what to do because there is no mistaking that Charlie has spotted him but then he’s also not sure if this is okay. Because he told Ginny as a necessity, and because he was absolutely sure she was able to keep secrets from their mother, but now that Charlie knew, would he be able to keep this info to himself until Ron told his siblings personally? Because George had been livid at the mere idea of befriending Draco – Ron was not sure he was ready to find out what his reaction would be when he found out Ron now also snogged him in queer clubs.

“…is that one of your brothers?” Draco has followed his gaze and is now looking at Charlie in wonderment – maybe because he is still waving his mug around, unwittingly spilling drink all over the table, or maybe he was just trying to figure out how many Weasley brothers he still hadn’t met yet, as he appeared to have thought he’d met the whole set by now.

Ron goes to tell him not to worry because that’s the last brother, he promises, but then he has to kind of stop and stare. Draco’s cheeks are pink and he’s sipping his drink with a little pout and suddenly Ron isn’t sure whether he cares that Charlie might not be able to keep this a secret. Because there’s purpose in Draco’s eyes and Ron knows with all his heart that the man is ready to take whatever step Ron needs him to. If he’s going to play it off like they barely know each other, he will be there, if he’s going to out them to this peculiar drink-waving wizard, he’ll be there too. It’s really stupid how good Draco is with communication, despite Ron having spent years thinking he was just an emotionally stunted little asshole that couldn’t explain himself even if he tried.

He suddenly gets how Pansy and Draco do that share-a-look-and-tell-a-whole-story thing. Maybe in a couple of months he and Draco will be able to gossip about their friends without words, too.

Draco’s eyes fix on him, and his hand finds Ron’s hip. He doesn’t say anything, but waits patiently for the redhead to take the lead.

Ron takes a sip of his drink, grasps Draco’s hand just a little too hard, and then stomps over into the direction of his brother’s booth with an air of determination.

It takes him about five seconds to realise that the whole inner turmoil that’s been going on inside his head is in absolute vain because as always Charlie is about as cool as brothers come. He should have known, really, as Charlie had never told anyone about the illegal dragon Ron had asked him to smuggle out of Hogwarts way back in first year.

He hugs Ron really tight and then continues to embrace Draco like he’s an old friend and shushes his companions out of the way so they can join his booth. His face is all freckles and a red blush of excitement, introducing his friends and then explaining how he’d been planning to surprise their parents but when he arrived at the Burrow it turned out Percy was already staying there as a result of a fight he’d had with his wife so he had just come out here to meet up with his friends instead.

When Draco introduces himself Charlie gets very excited and for a moment Ron fears maybe he’s remembered all the horrid impressions Ginny did of him a couple of Christmases ago except that Charlie just kind of goes, “holy Niko Nenad! Do you know your name means dragon in ancient Greek?! I work with dragons you know they’re such amazing creatures that is just the absolute best name to have I mean—“ and he rattles on and insist Draco tries his drink – a thick chocolatey cocktail – and then takes out his phone – which he’d bought years ago at Ron’s insistence and never regretted – to show them pictures of said dragons.

Ron is used to the type of pictures, as Charlie messages him regularly, but they are still amusing to see, and Draco for one, is beyond impressed. There’s pictures of all sorts of colourful dragons, big red ones, stocky green ones, multi-coloured ones with a huge wing-span. There’s close-ups of yellow eyes and grumpy-looking snouts, just black scales gleaming as they ripple, and a bunch of pictures of tiny dragons on Charlie’s bed. There’s a selfie of Charlie with a baby Chinese fireball, and one where he’s in front of the fire, one baby dragon on top of his head, one in his lap, and one leaning its head on his thigh as he points out things in a book about dragons.

“Umm…” Draco’s brow furrows, pointing out something in the picture, “is that dragon wearing a sweater?”

“Isn’t he the cutest,” the next picture is a close-up of said dragon, its scales green and silvery swirled together, quite stunning – it is indeed wearing what looked like a mini-Weasley-sweater however, and Ron had to hide his grin at the realisation that his older brother could knit, “he’s just hatched last month, he’s a rare mix between a Swedish short-snout and a Romanian longhorn and I miss him already.”

The next couple of pictures are of the same baby dragon and then they decide to have a drink to the baby’s birthday and Charlie is all red-faced excitement and giddy smiles. They end up talking a lot and Ron discovers that – as Ginny had long-suspected but had never been confirmed – Charlie is actually very asexual and usually accompanies his very gay best friends to gay bars because when he says “not interested” people actually respect it. He tells Ron stories about what it was like being asexual in Hogwarts, with wild tales of girls and love potions in chocolates – which sounds all too familiar – and Draco is hanging off his every word as he describes his work at the dragon sanctuary.

The end of the evening finds Charlie asleep on their couch with his gigantic overnight bag set by their living room door, and Draco taking Ron into his bedroom and undressing him very gently, pressing kisses to the column of his throat and nuzzling into the crook of his arm. His cheeks are pink and his lips are pink and his eyes are half-lid and Ron thinks this must be what perfection looks like.

Draco puts him to bed and kisses him sweetly until he drifts off to sleep and there’s this view of the white canopy and Draco’s silver hair and he thinks this is what muggles call “heaven”.

***